Prison absconder made break for freedom to see family before lockdown

Derek Pinto, 22, has absconded from Hollesley Bay prison. Picture: SUFFOLK CONSTABULARY

Derek Pinto absconded from Hollesley Bay prison - Credit: Archant

An inmate who could not resist the "overwhelming temptation" to walk away from open prison and see his family before lockdown has received more time in a higher security jail.

Derek Pinto was handed another four months' custody on an eight-year term imposed at Blackfriars Crown Court for possessing a loaded handgun.

The 22-year old, who absconded from Hollesley Bay prison as another national Covid-19 lockdown loomed last year, pleaded guilty to escaping lawful custody at Ipswich Crown Court on Wednesday.

A former inmate has spoken out over security and drugs issues at Hollesley Bay, Suffolk Picture: SAR

Pinto returned to Hollesley Bay prison the following day - Credit: Archant

The court heard that Pinto, formerly of Clarence Gardens, London, was transferred to the open prison near Woodbridge almost three years into his sentence for possession of a loaded Walther P38 pistol with intent to endanger life.

On October 31, Pinto, who has previous convictions for robbery in 2014 and assault in 2016, was found to have absconded after being absent from 5pm rollcall.

Prosecutor Juliet Donovan said Pinto returned to Hollesley Bay the following day after making it as far as Ipswich and turning back.

She said Pinto told police he had succumbed to "overwhelming temptation" after seeing other prisoners awarded temporary release.

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Reading from a letter to the court, Pinto said he was ashamed of, and had no valid explanation for his "reckless" actions, other than running out of patience and ruminating on having limited contact with his family following the announcement of a second national lockdown. 

He told Judge Rupert Overbury: "After a few hours in Ipswich, I realised I was making a big mistake."

Pinto said he was embarrassed to admit that depression had affected his thought process, but that he had since had time to reflect and had himself tested positive for Covid-19 since being remanded elsewhere.

"In my remaining time on my sentence, I will work towards being a better man," he concluded.

Kelly Fernandez-Lee, mitigating, said Pinto took full responsibility for his actions and had a supportive family awaiting his eventual release.

Judge Overbury said Pinto had been entrusted to follow the rules of an open prison but had surrendered to temptation to see his family.

"It's heartening to hear you say you have to change your way of thinking because you don't want to end up back in prison," he told Pinto.

"I encourage you to take any courses available to assist you in doing that."