Peer demands review after three murderers fail to return to prison
The escape of three convicted murderers from custody within recent weeks has led to calls for an urgent review of the temporary release of dangerous prisoners.
The killers - all life sentence prisoners - absconded while on temporary release from Maghaberry maximum security prison in Co Antrim.
Samuel McKinley, who stabbed his friend to death during a drinking session, went on the run in December.
It was the third time he had done so having been granted temporary release. He remains at large.
Patrick Byers (29) was given a 12-year sentence in 2005 for the murder of his neighbour Ciaran Kelly (35). He fled earlier this week but was returned to custody after handing himself in.
Another killer, William Sloan, went on the run for almost a month.
The 51-year-old, jailed for his role in a brutal hammer attack on a man in 1989, failed to return to custody by Friday, November 21.
He remained at large until he handed himself into police in Manchester on Saturday, December 15.
A senior politician last night led calls for an urgent review into the release of convicted killers.
DUP peer Lord Morrow said much more stringent measures must be introduced to protect the public. "The entire process of granting temporary leave must be reviewed as a matter of urgency," he told the Belfast Telegraph.
"For three convicted murders to abscond in recent weeks - one of whom remains unlawfully at large - is entirely unacceptable."
Lord Morrow also hit out at the reluctance of the authorities to release details about prisoners at large. He said: "No one can predict anything - it's a physical impossibility. But common sense is a fantastic tool and coupled with consideration of previous behaviour and actions whilst on leave, which of course the public are not considered fit to be privy, could go a long way to preventing these egregious errors."
A spokesman for the Department of Justice said: "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 low 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.
"Temporary leave assists a prisoner to re-integrate back into the community and is subject to a satisfactory risk assessment being completed."
The dangerous inmates granted temporary release
William Sloan, who is originally from Dundonald, was given temporary release from Maghaberry Prison in November.
But the 51-year-old, jailed for his role in a brutal hammer attack on a man in 1989, failed to return to custody.
Sloan handed himself into Manchester police a month later. Samuel McKinley is serving a life sentence for stabbing his friend to death during a drinking session.
The 53-year-old was due to return to Maghaberry Prison in December after a pre-release work scheme but remains at large.
Patrick Byers (29) was given a 12-year sentence in 2005 for the murder of his neighbour Ciaran Kelly (35).
Byers and his brother John beat Mr Kelly to death in front of his girlfriend at their north Belfast flat.
He absconded earlier this week but handed himself in again to the authorities.