Therese Coffey’s concern after prisoner Artur Topalli fails to return to Hollesley Bay

Artur Topalli

Artur Topalli - Credit: Archant

Suffolk Coastal MP Dr Therese Coffey is writing to government ministers to find out why a Romanian drug smuggler was allowed out on temporary release from Hollesley Bay prison after serving barely a quarter of his sentence.

Artur Topalli, 30, failed to return to the Suffolk jail on Friday evening after being given temporary release last Tuesday.

He had been arrested in February 2013 carrying cocaine worth £771,000 through the Channel Tunnel, and was sentenced to six years and eight months (80 months) in prison at Canterbury Crown Court in May last year.

Dr Coffey will be asking the prisons’ minister at the Ministry of Justice why he was allowed out on temporary release after just 21 months in custody.

She said: “We know that open prisons are used to prepare people for eventual release and to help rehabilitate them, but my constituents will want to know why someone serving quite a long sentence was released after serving only a quarter of it.”

Topalli was last seen in north London on Friday morning. A spokeswoman for Suffolk Police said he was not considered a risk to the public.

During 2012/13, 25 prisoners absconded or failed to return to the prison – up from 17 the previous year and 13 the year.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “Public protection is our top priority and we have tightened the eligibility for open prisons, following a comprehensive review.

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“It is clear that open prisons and temporary licences are important tools in rehabilitating long-term offenders, but they will not be used at the expense of public safety.

“Absconds have reached record lows under this Government, falling by more than 80% in the last 10 years, and more than 99% of releases on temporary licence continue to pass without incident, but we have not been complacent and have made major changes to tighten the system.”