Belfast Telegraph

When will jail chiefs realise what is obvious to rest of us?

Editor's Viewpoint

The public will find it difficult to understand why a convicted killer is on the run for the third time, having failed to honour his temporary release terms on two other occasions.

Samuel McKinley, who is serving a life sentence for stabbing to death a friend during a drinking session, was due to return to Maghaberry Prison last Monday after a pre-release work scheme, but so far he remains at large, and the authorities do not know where he is.

McKinley is a serial offender, having now absconded for the third time, and people are entitled to ask why this has been allowed to happen.

This is the second time recently that a murderer has gone on the run from a local prison.

It would be wrong to claim that the early release scheme is a total failure. The Prison Service has underlined that the level of abuse of such schemes is small, and the restriction of temporary release would have a detrimental effect on the resettlement of offenders back into the community.

This is particularly true of the majority of prisoners who abide by the temporary release conditions.

However, it is those who do not obey these rules who cause the greatest worry, particularly as there are several people still on the run, and one for as long as 12 years.

Each situation is different, but how can the authorities justify the temporary release of Samuel McKinley who has absconded twice before?

McKinley's release yet again, and his failure to return, is deeply disturbing to the public, and also to the family and friends of the person he stabbed to death. They have rights also, including the right to know that the murderer of their relative is not allowed, yet again, temporary access to outside society, until his sentence comes to an end.

Decisions about temporary release may be difficult, but, regarding Samuel McKinley, this seems to be prison bureaucracy gone mad.

If McKinley does come back, will he be released again, and when will the prison authorities learn a lesson which is obvious to everyone else?

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