Belfast Telegraph

MLA in call to suspend prisoner release scheme after four inmates go on the run

By Allan Preston

Justice officials are facing calls to shelve prisoner release schemes after it emerged that four inmates - two of them murderers - have absconded in the past fortnight.

All four of the men failed to return to jail over two weeks last month.

While the information was posted on the Department of Justice website, police did not issue any media appeals, claiming to do so would be "counter-productive".

The PSNI added: "There are a range of options which can be deployed in a missing person investigation."

UUP MLA Doug Beattie, the party's justice spokesman, said: "This is no longer good enough. We need to stop the process until we come up with an effective way of dealing with this."

The two killers have now been "unlawfully at large" from Maghaberry Prison since January 19. Both have broken temporary release conditions in the past.

Samuel McKinley (56) was convicted of murder, resisting police, taking a motor vehicle without authority and theft from a house.

It is the fourth time he has failed to return from a temporary release scheme.

He was first jailed in 1996 after stabbing his friend Robin Stoddart to death during a drinking session in southern England.

He received additional sentences for breaching release conditions.

The second murderer on the run is Thomas Lawrence McCabe (53).

Wesley Brennan (31) has been missing from Magilligan Prison since January 12 after being out on home leave.

He was remanded in custody last year in a case involving online fraud over GAA All-Ireland tickets. Other charges include breach of a community based order, fraud, theft and driving while disqualified.

The fourth prisoner, Sean Tate (41), has been unlawfully at large from Magilligan since January 27.

He had been released on compassionate temporary release.

His charges include aggravated vehicle taking, aggravated burglary and stealing, breach of custody probation order, robbery and possessing an offensive weapon in a public place.

Mr Beattie said the public needed greater clarity from the police and the department.

"You have to ask why these men have been let out if some of them have absconded before," he said.

"The conditions for being let out temporarily need to be strict.

"Moreover, if you flout those rules the privilege should never be afforded to you again.

"There is criticism to be handed out here."

Regarding the lack of a PSNI media appeal, he added: "It's easy to criticise. There could be reasons they haven't been made public, but the police need to explain why, so people have a better understanding of it.

"People deserve to know why we have dangerous criminals at large in our society who should be in custody.

"I think the police need to tell us why they're not letting the public know."

In 2015 then Justice Minister David Ford called for a review of temporary release schemes.

At the time McKinley was again on the run.

Mr Beattie added: "If David Ford made that call in 2015 and we're sitting here in 2018 with the same issue, we have serious problems.

"There needs to be somebody who says 'stop', and takes this absolutely seriously. People won't do this until a prisoner absconding kills or injures somebody, or does some criminal damage."

Belfast Telegraph

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph