Grayling firm on absconders' names

Lancaster And Morecambe Citizen: Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said that data protection laws will not be used to protect on-the-run criminals Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said that data protection laws will not be used to protect on-the-run criminals

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said there will be "no nonsense" over the naming of on-the-run criminals whose identities had been kept secret by Government officials.

Thirteen out of 18 missing convicts, whose identities had been withheld because Government officials believed it would be "unfair" to publish them, have now been named.

Mr Grayling stated that data protection laws will not be used to protect them, arguing: " They are wanted men and should be treated as such.

"That's why on my watch we will not hold back their names, unless the police ask us not to for operational reasons."

It comes after a Freedom of Information request by the Daily Mail to release the identities of missing prisoners had been rejected by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) - without considering whether it would be in the public interest to release the information.

The request was made after armed robbed Michael Wheatley - known as "skull cracker" - absconded while on temporary release from an open prison three weeks ago.

Rapist Robert Jones, arsonist Shied Riasat, burglars Viorel Avadanii and Steven Fortnam and robbers Sean Morrisey, Cesk Hanja and Islam Aslam are among 13 names which have now been published, the Daily Mail reports.

Andrew Akuffo, who was serving life for wounding with intent, drugs and firearms offences, Michael Collinson who was given almost seven years for wounding with intent, and Tom Zolynski, a carer who stole £10,000 from a frail, elderly man, are also at large.

The other three are fraudster Ismail Hasko, drink driver John Wilson and drug dealer Leacroft Wallace.

The Mail notes that of the five names being withheld, two have been recaptured and face criminal charges while police have asked for three more to remain classified on "operational" grounds.

Mr Grayling said: "We take any abscondings very seriously, reporting it to the police immediately. The police catch most of them quickly.

"Even so, I think the rules in open prisons have been too lax and I am tightening them.

"There'll be more stringent risk assessments, and anyone who absconds will get a longer sentence and will be banned from going back to an open prison.

"From the end of this year, we'll also use GPS tags to monitor where they are."

He also suggested the number of people absconding from open prisons is a "small fraction" of what it was ten years ago.

The fact that 18 prisoners had absconded since May 2010 and not returned to custody was originally released in a parliamentary answer given to Shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan on April 1 by Prisons Minister Jeremy Wright.

Wheatley - who fled Standford Hill open prison on May 3 - was been arrested along with another man in east London earlier this month.

Kent Police said Wheatley, 55, and another man aged 53 were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit armed robbery in Tower Hamlets. He was also arrested on suspicion of being unlawfully at large.

Wheatley, who earned his nickname after pistol-whipping victims, had gone on the run twice in the past and each time staged a series of violent robberies before being caught and re-jailed.

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