'Serial escaper' caught out shopping

PRISON chiefs who allowed a “serial escaper” out of jail on leave were last night accused of making “a terrible error of judgement” after the freed inmate spent two months on the run.

Laurence Cawley

PRISON chiefs who allowed a “serial escaper” out of jail on leave were last night accused of making “a terrible error of judgement” after the freed inmate spent two months on the run.

Conman David Aves, who is originally from Bury St Edmunds, was snared yesterday by Suffolk police who caught him out shopping near Thetford.

He had been on the run since September when he failed to return to the Category D Hollesley Bay after he was granted temporary home leave.

It was not the first time Aves, who is serving two years for deception, had fled jail - a decade ago he used fake release papers to walk out of Norwich Prison.

Last night West Suffolk MP Richard Spring criticised prison authorities for allowing Aves temporary leave.

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“It consumes a considerable amount of police time and all I can say is that whatever assessments are made about temporary release have to be done with the greatest care,” Mr Spring said.

“In this case he has gone back to his old habits. In terms of the protection of the public and the waste of police time this has been a terrible error of judgement.”

The release of 50-year-old Aves has also been criticised by one of his former victims who said: “It is an absolute joke. It is very strange that they keep letting him out on release - in fact, it is amazing. He is a serial escaper.”

Aves now faces the possibility of further criminal charges being made against him and a longer prison term.

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Justice defended its procedures, claiming the number of absconders was at its lowest level for a decade.

“Public protection is a priority and all prisoners located in open prisons have been rigorously risk assessed,” she said. "The number of absconds is at its lowest level for a decade despite a rising population. The new data also shows that 95 per cent of absconds are rearrested and returned to custody.

"Prisons take a number of steps to reduce absconds - open prisons operate intelligence systems to identify those prisoners who many be planning to abscond, and those at significant risk of absconding are returned to closed conditions.

“All absconds are immediately reported to the police and absconders can be charged with a criminal offence - a number of prisoners who absconded and were caught have subsequently received additional custodial sentences."

Earlier this year, Aves was jailed for two years for a £28,000 scam involving registration plates. In 1998, Aves was jailed for four-and-a-half years for masterminding a £300,000 fraud from within jail. On that occasion he used a public telephone at Blundeston Prison to set up deals buying and selling mainly agricultural machinery and equipment.

A spokeswoman for Suffolk police said the force's inquiries into the case were still ongoing and said he had not yet been charged with any offences at the current time. She added officers had been actively searching for him since he failed to return to jail in September.

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