Daily Mail

Violent criminals who go on run CAN be sent to open jails

- By Ian Drury and James Slack

THE ban on sending high-risk violent prisoners to open jails was dramatical­ly overturned by the courts yesterday following a human rights challenge.

Judges said that stopping dangerous inmates with a history of absconding from being transferre­d to lenient Category D prisons was ‘unfair and unlawful’.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling introduced the ban last May after a string of criminals fled minimum- security jails, including murderers and armed robbers.

But yesterday a prisoner convicted of appalling violence successful­ly challenged the restrictio­n, after claiming the ‘absconder policy’ contradict­ed a previous parole order and breached his right to a fair hearing under European laws.

The Government had originally ordered

‘A history of absconding’

that the Parole Board should consider that ‘in most cases a phased release from closed to open prison is necessary in order to test the prisoner’s readiness for release’.

But in May last year, Mr Grayling tried to tighten the rules that determine when people are let out of open jail to help them readjust to living in the community – known as ‘ released on temporary licence’, or ROTL.

This followed a string of cases of prisoners with a history of violence fleeing or committing crimes after being freed from minimumsec­urity jails on day release.

But a legal challenge was brought by John Gilbert, who was jailed in 2008 for grievous bodily harm. In 2013, on day release from an open prison, he missed the last train and failed to return overnight.

And when the Parole Board recommende­d he return to open conditions, this was blocked by Mr Grayling’s newly introduced policy on absconders. Gilbert argued that this contradict­ed the earlier Parole Board order – and that it breached Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the right to a fair hearing.

Yesterday the High Court did not rule on the ban’s legality under human rights laws. But Lord Justice Bean, sitting with Mr Justice Mitting, decided that excluding transfers to open jails for prisoners ‘with a history of abscond, escape or serious ROTL failure’ was, except in exceptiona­l circumstan­ces, unlawful.

This was because it contradict­ed the earlier Parole Board order. It was the latest defeat for Mr Grayling at the hands of the judiciary. In December, the courts overturned a controvers­ial ban on sending books to criminals.

Yesterday senior Tories said the fact that the prisoner had tried to claim that the ban had affected his human rights showed that Labour’s Human Rights Act should be scrapped. Mr Grayling said: ‘This is why it is so important a Conservati­ve government has the chance to reform our human rights laws and restore common sense.’

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: ‘The court found there was inconsiste­ncy with the ban’s implementa­tion. Our position remains that temporary release can be an important part of rehabilita­ting offenders but not at the cost of public protection.’

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