683 bail hostel criminals abscond in year with manhunts for serious offenders
Nearly 700 criminals have absconded from bail hostels in England and Wales in the past year, new figures have revealed.
The figures were released after police launched a series of manhunts for serious offenders who have gone missing after being released from prison on licence.
In the past financial year, 683 criminals have gone missing from approved premises, according to figures released by the Ministry of Justice.
In total, 2,235 convicts have been taken back into custody in the past year for breaking the terms of their licence, testing positive for drugs or other breaches during 2015-16.
The number of criminals absconding from bail hostels has fallen substantially over the past five years, nearly halving from the 1,198 who went missing in 2010-11.
But Labour former justice minister David Hanson, who unearthed the numbers in a parliamentary question, said the figure remains significant.
He told the Press Association: "The trend is downwards, but there are still 683 and we don't know the level of seriousness or how many of those people have been recaptured.
"There are still significant numbers of people who are either absconding from approved premises, who are being returned to custody from approved premises, or who are breaching curfew restrictions while in approved premises.
"I still think these are significant numbers. These figures still demand an explanation as to why they still remain significantly high."
Mr Hanson said he asked the question after convicted criminal Michael Andrew Jones, 47, absconded from a bail hostel in his constituency of Delyn in Wales.
He has written to the Justice Secretary Lord Chancellor Liz Truss to ask what risk assessment was carried out before Jones was out and what steps were taken to ensure the public's safety.
Answering the parliamentary question, Justice Minister Sam Gyimah said: "Public protection is our top priority. When an abscond takes place, the offender is recalled, and the police are notified and are responsible for locating the offender.
"We take any breach of licence conditions extremely seriously and offenders who abscond can be sent back to prison."