Tuesday, January 29, 2013
37 jailed killers walk out and flee: Alarm over security at Britain's open prisons as figures reveal 175 inmates absconded last year
Dozens of dangerous criminals including murderers, rapists and paedophiles are simply walking out of prison.
Last year 175 inmates left open prisons or disappeared while on day release, the equivalent of one every other day. The list of violent offenders who have absconded over the last three years includes 37 murderers and five rapists.
Among them is rapist Ivan Leach, a predatory paedophile and ruthless robber whose criminal record stretches back three decades. The tattooed thug is suspected of breaking into a woman’s home and raping her while on the run.
Others include a man who stabbed a teacher to death while high on lighter fuel and a teenager who killed a ‘Good Samaritan’ who tried to stop a robbery.
Last night the MP who uncovered the figures asked how criminals guilty of such serious offences could be allowed to roam free.
Philip Davies, Conservative MP for Shipley, said: ‘People will be astonished that it is possible for about 40 murderers and rapists to have absconded in three years.
‘The public expect to be protected from serious offenders, and the fact that so many can abscond is outrageous and unacceptable.
‘These are the most serious of offenders and, as far as I’m concerned, those guilty of murder should be behind bars for life, not put in a position where they can abscond at will.
‘People who have been convicted of rape simply should not be just walking the streets.’
He added: ‘What is frightening is that we don’t know how many of these committed offences while they were absconding. We don’t even know whether they are still at large.
‘It shows that far too many people are not being properly punished for their crimes. The public will be shocked and appalled.’
The vast majority of the convicts disappeared while in relatively relaxed institutions after serving a long period in prison.
Many of them were allowed to leave during the day to undertake work placements or work in charity shops in an attempt to prepare them for freedom.
According to the Ministry of Justice figures, 679 prisoners absconded between 2009/10 and 2011/12. They included 149 robbers, four kidnappers, 15 guilty of grievous bodily harm, and three of attempted murder.
A further four were convicted of manslaughter, 22 of possession of firearms or knives, and two had threatened to kill. In Government terminology, ‘absconding’ is different from ‘escaping’ as it does not require climbing a wall or digging a tunnel.
Mr Davies mocked the distinction, adding: ‘It’s like Yes Minister. The public will be delighted to know that these people haven’t escaped – they’ve just absconded.’
The figures prompted claims that officials are failing to get the balance right between protecting the public and rehabilitating criminals.
David Green, of think tank Civitas, said: ‘These figures simply reaffirm that the Government does not attach the weight it should to the safety of the public. ‘These are people who are given day release in preparation for ultimate release, and then go missing; or people who are put into open prisons where they should not necessarily be.
‘It is concerning that murderers are contained in these groups.’
The figures show that the number of ‘absconders’ has fallen from 269 in 2009/10 to 175 last year.
Justice Minister Jeremy Wright said: ‘The annual number of absconds has reduced significantly over the last several years with the number in 2011/12 being at the lowest levels since central records began.
‘Of those prisoners who do abscond, the majority are quickly recaptured, returned to closed conditions and referred to the police for prosecution.’
A spokesman for the Prison Service admitted that a small number of those who abscond are never returned to jail.
One in four violent criminals gets just a CAUTION as police wrongly let off sex offenders and burglars
One in four violent criminals is cheating justice by escaping with a caution, magistrates warned yesterday. They are among tens of thousands of crooks, including sex offenders and burglars, wrongly let off with a 'slap on the wrist' by police.
New figures showed one in five sex offenders are also cautioned as well as an astonishing one in 20 of offenders with more than 10 previous convictions.
Experts fear officers are widely misusing cautions because they cut down on paperwork and improve crime detection figures.
The criminal justice sanction was originally aimed at first-time offenders caught committing relatively low level offences.
But there are concerns that police under pressure to deal with offences quickly are handing out cautions in the wrong circumstances.
The proportion of proven offences dealt with outside the court has more than doubled over the past decade, from 15 per cent to more than 30 per cent.
More than 112,000 cautions were given in 2011-12 for indictable offences, which are serious enough for trial in the crown court.
These included 14,137 cautions for violence against other people and 1,419 cautions for sexual offences.
John Fassenfelt, chairman of the Magistrates' Association, said: 'Cautions are being misused and there is no transparency.
'It is alarming that so many offences which impact so seriously on victims are being dealt with behind closed doors.'
'The line is quite clear. We are responsible for sentencing offenders, and the police are responsible for catching them. It seems to us the police are extending their powers.'
The latest figures show half of all cautions are given to offenders who have committed previous crimes.
Among them are six per cent of cautions handed out to career criminals who have committed at least 10 previous crimes.
Magistrates are concerned that cases dealt with by cautions and other out-of-court sanctions are not open to public scrutiny.
It is also impossible to make defendants pay compensation if the case is not brought before a magistrate.
It emerged last week that serial burglar Jason Dernbach, 24, from Woking, Surrey, was given a caution despite admitting 113 burglaries and car break-ins over a three-year crime spree. He was already serving a four-and-a-half year sentence for six burglaries when he admitted the new offences to the police while behind bars.
Other high-profile cases include that of Carl Bielby, 25, a sex offender from Hull who targeted schoolchildren using Facebook. He was given a warning when he was caught suggesting the use of sex toys to an 11-year-old. He went on to target other schoolchildren and was jailed last year.
In Birmingham, Junior Mohammed Oakes, 28, was cautioned for assault and possessing a knife. He was convicted this month of murdering the mother of his three children in a 'savage and prolonged' knife attack.
In 2011, a joint report by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and the Crown Prosecution Service said there was 'disquiet' over the use of out-of-court sanctions.
It revealed that in some police force areas, more than 40 per cent of all offences brought to justice were dealt with outside the courts.
It examined 190 cases dealt with outside the courts and found inappropriate decisions were made in a third of cases.
It said the most common problem was that cautions and other out-of-court sanctions were being used for prolific offenders.
Hampshire Chief Constable Alex Marshall, who has national responsibility for cautions, said the use of cautions and similar sanctions has declined. He said: 'The vast majority of those who receive a caution for a first-time minor offence do not go on to commit further offences.
'Officers need to ensure a caution is appropriate to the offence [and that] it is in the public interest.'
Theresa May, the home secretary, has said she wants the victims of crime to have more say in how perpetrators are punished when they are dealt with outside the courts.
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said: 'I am already looking into how police cautions are being used.
'We shouldn't remove the right for police officers to exercise discretion but the public are right to expect that people who commit serious crimes will be brought before a court where very tough sentences are available.'
Why feminism is a dirty word, by Bake Off star
It is unlikely she would ever be mistaken for a radical firebrand. And now Mary Berry has made her traditional views on gender equality absolutely clear, with the pronouncement: ‘Feminism is a dirty word.’
The star of The Great British Bake Off said she does not want women’s rights and is ‘thrilled to bits’ when men offer to look after her.
Although the 77-year-old has never made any secret of her traditionalist family values, her comments have been seized upon by some women, who accused her of being ‘ignorant’ about feminism’s achievements.
But Mrs Berry, who has published 70 cookbooks in a 46-year career and had three children, said: ‘I would always stand up for women but I don’t want women’s rights and all that sort of thing.
‘I love to have men around and I suppose if you’re a true feminist you get on and do it yourself. I love it when someone says, “I’ll get your coat” or, “I’ll look after you”, or offers you a seat on the bus. I’m thrilled to bits. I’m not a feminist.’
Mrs Berry, who was praised for her elegance last week when she wore a blue silk gown and pearls at the National Television Awards, has been married to retired bookseller Paul, 80, for 46 years. She has two surviving children – one son, William, died in 1989 – and four grandchildren.
Asked if she believed feminism means ‘shouting at men’, she said: ‘I don’t like that at all. I respect them, I don’t like shouting.’
She added: ‘Feminism is a dirty word. You’ve got to persuade them [men] gently to do things and, of course, when they come back they say, “Oh, wasn’t that fun?”’
Mrs Berry, who with her daughter Annabel Bosher, 40, runs Mary Berry And Daughter which sells a range of sauces and dressings, appeared to criticise female employees who take their full maternity leave entitlement, saying: ‘I had about five weeks off and now I think, gosh, they haven’t half cottoned on to it.
‘You have a year off, and you don’t have to tell them whether you’re coming back or not. ‘It makes it terribly difficult for the small employer to employ young women, young married women or [women] with children. 'You’ve got three in the department and they all go to have children and you’ve got to leave the job open.’
Mrs Berry’s comments have been attacked by some women. Writer Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, who has described herself as a ‘leftie liberal, anti-racist, feminist’, said: ‘They show an ignorance of the power relationship between men and women.
‘They also show an ignorance of what feminism is. ‘I am a feminist and I cook for my husband every night – and I make very good cakes.’
Why do you need pliers to open a toothbrush packet? Difficult packaging afflicts people of all ages
Terry Wogan only tells the half of it below. I need a Stillson wrench to open some things! -- JR
Standing in the bathroom with a new toothbrush still in its packet, I think: ‘Ah, I will restore my dentures to their pristine glory.’ But can I remove the toothbrush from its packaging? I cannot.
I bend it this way and that. I squeeze it and I pull it. I wrestle with it. I would need pliers to make any progress. The plastic packaging is moulded solid.
Indeed, it is almost soldered at the back. It has, in short, defeated me. I’m 74, and it is true that as you get older, your aged fingers begin to lose their strength.
But this problem with packaging is not confined to old geezers like me. It is universal — it afflicts people of all ages. In fact, a recent survey revealed that 85 per cent of consumers experience frustration with modern packaging.
Of the 500 people who took part, 425 said they found packaging difficult to ‘open, tear or rip easily’.
And I received a big round of applause earlier this month on the BBC series Room 101 when I nominated packaging to be consigned to oblivion.
Consider the tinned sardine or the pilchard, for example. You squeeze your finger into the ring-pull, dis-locate your digit, break your nail… then the damn ring-pull snaps off and you have to use a tin opener anyway — all for a sardine.
The humble tin of beans is exactly the same. Another ring-pull mechanism. It should be simple but it can take your finger off.
At home we have a little plastic yoke that you insert in tins with ring-pulls — but it doesn’t always work.
Then there are bottles. I can remember when it was easy to open a bottle of medicine or a jar containing tablets. Then someone invented the child-proof bottle. Child-proof? Adult-proof more like. They are the bane of modern life.
You read the label and follow the instructions to the letter. There is an arrow showing you the direction in which to twist. You press, you twist. It won’t come off. Press, twist. Nothing. You keep doing it. It doesn’t work. You are red in the face from trying — hot tears of frustration streaming down your blazing cheeks.
I tend to hand the thing to my wife, Lady Helen. She has stronger fingers than me.
And what about milk cartons? No matter what I do, for some reason I always end up with a bit of milk down my shirt front. In fact, Tetra Pak cartons in general are problematic. I gather they’ve made a fortune for the family that invented them. Think how much more money they could have made if they had ever found a way of getting the things to open properly.
Do you remember those little plastic triangles of milk they used to have on aeroplanes? I use Aer Lingus frequently and I could never get the triangles to open properly to put the milk in my tea. I’d struggle to tear off the cap and then cover a nun on the other side of the aisle with milk.
When I was a boy there was less fuss about packaging — probably because there was less packaging, and what there was mostly just good old-fashioned plain brown paper.
My late father had a shop and it seemed that everything then was more accessible and easy to get at. Life was less complicated. Bottles were used and returned. Four pounds of potatoes came in an open paper bag, not a sealed plastic one. They were happy days.
But recently I heard about plans to sell individually wrapped bananas. Has the world gone mad?
Bananas come in their own distinctive yellow packaging, thoughtfully provided by Mother Nature herself. It is packaging, I might add, that I am actually capable of removing. Bananas don’t need to be shrink-wrapped, heat-sealed or otherwise interfered with. What next I ask you? Coconuts encased in Perspex? Individual eggs in tins?
The temptation, of course, is to take a penknife to packaging. Or a machete even. But most packaging is so fiendishly contrived as to defeat even a blade. And you have to be very wary or you’ll take a finger off. In my declining years I keep away from the penknife.
Try breaking into a leg of lamb or a joint of beef. Pressurised jars of jam or preserves? Forget it. Confectionery? You would need the strength of an ox to open a packet of sweets. Nuts are no different. How many times have you scattered them near and far as you struggle to prise them open?
Personally, I am fond of a crisp but gaining entry to a pack of salt-and-vinegar requires the skill and dexterity of the master safe-cracker.
Many people over Christmas will have suffered from the ordeal of attempting to open presents. I say attempt because, like toothbrushes and razors, toys seem to come encased in plastic that has been moulded for eternity.
And as if the plastic isn’t enough, toys are often secured with twine of such tensile strength that you could make a zip-wire of it. The poor child has not a hope of getting access to the gift — leading to an infernal ballyhoo and tears before breakfast.
As for my toothbrush, I did get it open eventually. I had to use scissors, though. If they had failed I would have resorted to the garden shears.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.