Belfast Telegraph

Call for tighter restrictions on leave as six inmates currently on missing list

By Chris Kilpatrick

Samuel McKinley is one of six people currently on the run from Northern Ireland's prisons.

McKinley was on a pre-release work scheme.

Among those currently on the missing list are east Belfast man Jonathan Bowe (31), who was serving a sentence for possessing firearms.

Also unlawfully at large is Fermanagh man Thomas O'Brien (33), who was jailed for nine years for causing death by dangerous driving.

Brendan McGuinness (33) is Northern Ireland's longest unlawfully at large inmate and has been hunted by the PSNI for the past 12 years after being jailed for drugs offences. DUP peer Lord Morrow has campaigned for tighter restrictions on those granted home leave.

On its website the Prison Service says of home release: "The Prison Service recognises that it is important for both prisoners and their families that close links are maintained between them. The level of abuse of Prison Service schemes is small and to restrict temporary release would have a serious detrimental effect on the resettlement of prisoners, the majority of whom abide by temporary release conditions.

"This is emphasised in Prison Rules which state that 'special attention shall be paid to the maintenance of relationships between a prisoner and his family'. The Service helps prisoners maintain links with their families in a number of ways, including providing visiting facilities above statutory requirements and also through various home leave schemes and the prisoners' telephone system.

"The range of temporary release schemes has been developed to provide both determinate and life sentence prisoners with structured and planned releases towards the end of their sentences. The schemes allows the Prison Service to respond sympathetically to bereavement and very serious illness and to long-term infirmity or disability which prevent prisoners' close relatives from visiting."

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