Hollesley: Decision to send absconder to open jail two months into five-year sentence branded ‘ridiculous’

Kevin Smith, 29 , who was serving a five-year three-month sentence

Kevin Smith, 29 , who was serving a five-year three-month sentence - Credit: Archant

A Hollesley Bay absconder was transferred to the open prison only two months after being jailed for more than five years, it has emerged.

The decision to house bank raider Kevin Smith in a less secure environment after a total of nine months in custody has been strongly criticised.

The Prison Officers’ Association (POA) branded the move as “absolutely ridiculous”. It also warned that fast-tracking inmates into open jails is putting the public in danger.

Smith is the latest in a series of absconders from the open jail near Woodbridge.

He absconded from Hollesley Bay just 10 days after arriving on September 20. He had been imprisoned for five years and three months by Peterborough Crown Court in July, although he had been remanded in custody since his arrest in December.

He was part of a gang who stole £34,000 from a Cambridgeshire bank after ramming it with a digger (see the video of their raid attached to this story).

Smith is one of two inmates who went missing from the open prison on Monday, bringing the total for the past year to 12.

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Lifer Gregory Dennett had been behind bars for nine years after a homophobic attack in Luton. He failed to return after being given resettlement leave.

Glyn Travis, assistant secretary and spokesman for the POA, said: “It’s absolutely ridiculous. This demonstrates the tick-box mentality of allocating prisoners is not fit for purpose and puts the public at risk.

“The observation, classification and allocation of prisoners is outdated, inefficient, and doesn’t do anything to serve the public.

“The Government prison quota closure programme will do nothing other than endanger the public because prisoners are being moved down (to open prisons) far too early in their sentences and will no doubt commit more crimes at a significant cost to the taxpayer.”

In reply, a Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “The number of absconds from open prisons in 2012/13 was the second lowest since records began, but we are determined to do more.

“We are working on plans to put prisoners on temporary release on a tag, which will allow us to better track their movements and enforce curfews and exclusion zones. This will ultimately help us to protect the public better.

“Anyone who does abscond - or fail to return to prison after a period of temporary release – will be returned to a closed prison and may face further criminal charges.”

Staff at Hollesley Bay contacted Suffolk Constabulary at 5.45pm on Monday to report Smith was not present at a 5pm check.

He was jailed for conspiracy to commit burglary and conspiracy to steal motor vehicle, following a stolen JCB smash-and-grab raid in Cambridgeshire.

Fellow inmate Dennett had been given resettlement leave at an address in Luton, but did not return on Monday afternoon. The 43-year-old was serving a life sentence for wounding with intent to do grievous bodily harm.

Police have warned the public not to approach either man, but to telephone 101 if anyone knows their whereabouts.