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Prison probe to address Sudbury jail absconders

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PRIME Minister David Cameron has promised to launch a review into Britain’s open prison system following a series of escapes which have led to calls for action.

Sudbury Open Prison has come under fire for its record over the past year, with many inmates seizing the opportunity to flee while on temporary release.

The issue also came under the spotlight of the national media last week after violent criminal Michael Wheatley, known as the ‘Skull Cracker’, went on the run from an open prison in Kent.

The Prime Minister faced questions on the issue during a visit to Derbyshire, where he vowed to make the process of determining which prisoners are suitable for open jails more ‘robust’.

Armed robber Wheatley is now back in custody after allegedly holding up a bank during his short time on the run.

Mr Cameron said: “In the case of this individual, I think I’m right in saying he had done the tariff that was set following his conviction and so he was, under the rules, applicable for potential release and that’s why I think he was put into a more open prison and allowed into the community.

“Clearly, this went wrong, so let’s learn the lessons of this case and make sure that our arrangements for testing whether a person is safe to be released are robust. That’s what we must do.”

Uttoxeter MP Andrew Griffiths has been a regular critic of Sudbury jail as prisoners continue to slip through the net.

Earlier this year, 10 inmates fled in just six weeks, while convicted murderer Carl Moses, who was serving a life sentence, went on the run last summer.

Mr Griffiths said: “If this is happening so regularly, something is clearly going wrong with the type of prisoners they are putting in the open prisons. These prisoners are clearly not ready for the freedom that Sudbury offers.”

Motorists living near the prison are being hit in the pocket with rocketing car insurance rates.

Villagers have suggested the hikes are down to the fact they live in the shadow of the prison.

Some companies were charging hundreds of pounds extra for Sudbury residents compared to neighbouring Doveridge and almost double that of drivers in nearby Burton - despite there being considerably more vehicle crime in the town - with younger drivers particularly affected.

With vehicle crime an extremely rare occurrence in rural Sudbury, there are suspicions the fluctuations could be down to concerns inmates who are on the run could be roaming through the village.

Mark Woods, a director at insurance firm A Choice admitted the anomaly was difficult to explain but said although living near a prison shouldn’t have a direct impact on insurance prices, its presence in the area could be having some sort of influence.

He said: “It’s quite complex. Generally it comes down to the density of the area and the frequency of claims.”

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