A GOVERNMENT minister is to take up the case of arsonist Edward Macdonald who tried to set light to a man’s flat after absconding from Hollesley Bay open prison.

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As reported in Wednesday’s East Anglian Daily Times, Macdonald - who was described as “likely to be very dangerous” when he was sentenced to life imprisonment for arson in 1996 - had been assessed as minimal risk before he was allowed out on work placement in Ipswich.

However, he was recaptured three months later after attempting to set light to a shop with an occupied flat above it in Great Yarmouth.

Macdonald has now been sentenced to an indeterminate prison sentence to run concurrently with his life term.

Now, Brandon Lewis, MP for Great Yarmouth and a junior minister for local government, has said he will be contacting the Prison Service about the decision to let Macdonald out on work placement.

Mr Lewis said: “I am aware of Mr Macdonald’s situation and will be writing to the Prison Service to ask for their advice on the matter.”

His Conservative colleague Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey said she did not wish to make any comment about Hollesley Bay’s decision to grant Macdonald work release, or get involved in his case.

Macdonald pleaded guilty to arson with intent to endanger life and arson, when he appeared before Norwich Crown Court last Friday.

He went on the run on June 28 after 16 years in jail for arson with intent to endanger life after attempting to start a blaze at a block of flats in Eastbourne.

Three months later Macdonald tried to burn down Crown Stores in Crown Road and the flat above it.

A Prison Service spokeswoman said: “Only prisoners representing minimal risk of escape and harm to the public are eligible for release on temporary licence.”

“Prisoners may be released on temporary licence providing they meet strict criteria and pass a rigorous risk assessment.”

Macdonald was arrested after setting light to cardboard left near a dustbin outside Crown Stores just before 9pm on September 16.

A man in his 60s was in the flat above the store at the time, but was uninjured.

Macdonald subsequently set light to bushes near the Amazonia World of Reptiles in Marine Parade.

When he was jailed at Lewes Crown Court in July 1996, Judge Richard Brown said: “The medical reports indicate to me that if you are at liberty you are likely to be very dangerous and put other people’s lives at risk. ”

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