Murderers and rapists on the loose admits Straw

By Liz Stephens

Almost 1,000 offenders who should have been sent back to prison are still on the loose according to justice secretary, Jack Straw.

The offenders, who were released from prison on licence and then recalled for breaching the conditions of that licence, have yet to be returned to custody.

They include 19 convicted murderers and 26 convicted of sex offences.

According to data published today, 935 offenders had their licences revoked between 1999 and March of this year, yet were not returned to jail.

In total, 91,965 offenders had their licences revoked in that period.

Mr Straw said: “Many offenders return to the community on licence following a period in prison and complete a successful rehabilitation. But others are prone to breaking the conditions of their licence and therefore become subject to recall to custody.”

The statistics were published by the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), which has responsibility for licence revocation policy.

NOMS conducted an audit, writing to police, probation areas and the UK Border Agency, with a list of the ‘wanted’ offenders.

The agencies were asked to check the list and remove any offenders who had been returned to custody under a different name, or were known to have died.

Following the audit, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) wrote to all police forces in England and Wales, asking them to take priority action to arrest and return to custody all those offenders on the list who had previously been convicted of sexual or violent offences.

Liberal Democrat justice spokesman, David Howarth said: “Rather than slipping these figures out hoping no one will notice, ministers should come to Parliament and explain why nearly a thousand recalled prisoners are being aloud to run free.

“The Government’s failed prison policy, which has left our prisons bursting at the seams, has led to thousands of prisoners being let out early.”

All offenders serving sentences of more than a year are released from prison under licensed supervision to the Probation Service.

They are subject to a set of standard licence conditions, requiring them to report regularly to the Probation Service, live at an approved address and to be “of good behaviour”.

Some are also subject to further restrictions, for example curfews and exclusion zones.