Man jailed after failing to return from prison leave
A Co Antrim would-be robber was jailed for two months yesterday for failing to return to prison on time while out on home leave.
Stephen James Allison (32), formerly of Adelaide Avenue in Whitehead, pleaded guilty to being unlawfully at large from Magilligan prison in Co Londonderry.
Belfast Crown Court heard that Allison was serving a four-and-a-half-year sentence for attempted robbery of a newsagent's shop on the Dublin Road, Belfast, on November 3, 2015.
Prosecution lawyer Simon Jenkins said the defendant was one of three males who entered the shop. "One of them, but not this defendant, was armed with a knife and attempted to rob the shop."
But the trio fled empty handed when the 78-year-old shop owner produced a hatchet.
Mr Jenkins said Allison was due to be released in April, 2019 and as part of a scheme to help him to "get used to being released", he was granted two days home leave from November 26 to November 28, 2018.
Belfast Recorder Judge David McFarland heard that as part of his release conditions, Allison was to reside at a hostel and remain in doors between 8pm and 8am.
Allison spent the first night in the hostel, but when he didn't return on November 27, hostel staff immediately contacted police, who launched a manhunt for him. "He eventually handed himself into Bangor Police Station on November 30, 2018. He was effectively at large for four days.
"The police state that the cost of looking for him was almost £2,000."
Mr Jenkins added that Allison had 74 previous convictions, which included offences for attempted robbery, driving whilst disqualified, common assault, criminal damage, having no insurance and driving without a licence.
He confirmed to the court that the maximum sentence for being unlawfully at large was two years in prison.
Defence barrister Taylor Campbell said Allison made the case that one of his cousins had died several months previously from a drug overdose and he "went to visit the grave".
He told the court that no further offences were committed while Allison was unlawfully at large.
The defence lawyer said Allison was released from prison on April 23 this year, but his release licence was later revoked.
As part of his release, Allison was to reside at a hostel, but instead he later went to live with his girlfriend, which was a breach of his licence.
The Belfast Recorder said cases of prisoners being unlawfully at large required the imposition of deterrent sentences.
Reducing his sentence by a third for his early guilty plea, the judge imposed a further period of two months imprisonment.