Pledge to learn from prison errors
The prison service will learn from the mistakes that saw two inmates released from custody when they should have remained behind bars, Justice Minister David Ford has said.
A report into the release of the two men, one of whom is still at large, has made a series of recommendations in the wake of the incidents.
Connelly Cummins was wrongly released from Downpatrick Crown Court on October 1 but was returned to prison within weeks, while Lithuanian national Devidas Paliutis has not surfaced since he was wrongly released from Maghaberry Prison following a videolink court appearance on September 29.
The report found that Paliutis, a 27-year-old accused of rape, was mistakenly freed due to procedural and systematic failures compounded by human error.
The release of Cummins, 25, who had previously appeared in court on charges including theft and aggravated vehicle-taking, was blamed on human error. A disciplinary investigation under the Prison Service Code of Conduct and Discipline is now under way in relation to the Cummins case.
Mr Ford said: "I am grateful to the Inquiry Team and Criminal Justice Inspection, who quality assured the process, for delivering their report in a relatively tight timescale.
"The Inquiry team recognise, as I do, that there is scope for improving and formalising the flow of information between prisons and courts, and indeed more widely between prisons and the wider criminal justice family.
"While it is important that we learn from mistakes made and take all reasonable steps to safeguard against similar releases in the future, I am assured by the fact that robust checks carried out by the Inquiry Team have found no evidence of other erroneous releases. Where, however, shortcomings have been identified, immediate steps have been put in place to address them."
The internal inquiry was headed by a senior prison governor, while Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJI) provided oversight.
The inquiry also found that in the release of Paliutis, staff dealing with the videolink information in the case were inexperienced, had received inadequate training and, due to staffing issues, did not have sufficient support and guidance available to them.