A man charged in Northern Ireland with serious sexual offences was accidentally released from prison, officials said today.
An international police operation involving Interpol and officers from both sides of the Irish border has been launched to trace Devidas Paliutis, 27, originally from Lithuania, who was released in Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland Justice Minister David Ford ordered a full inquiry when it was revealed the man was freed when charges against him were withdrawn during court proceedings, but officials failed to spot that they had been substituted with fresh charges.
The prisoner appeared at Newry Magistrates' Court in Co Down via video link from Maghaberry Prison in Co Antrim on Wednesday.
He was charged with serious sexual offences, and unlawful and injurious imprisonment.
The Northern Ireland Prison Service was advised that the holding charges were withdrawn from the Magistrates' Court.
However they failed to act on the notification that other charges had been substituted, for which he was returned for trial to the Crown Court.
As a result of the error, he was mistakenly released from jail.
The Department of Justice said: "The Police Service of Northern Ireland, An Garda Siochana and Interpol have been advised and are co-ordinating efforts to have Mr Paliutis returned to custody.
"Steps are being taken to safeguard the interests of the victim of the alleged crime.
"Justice Minister David Ford has ordered an immediate and full inquiry into the circumstances which led to this release.
"He will invite the Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice to review the findings."