Sadiq Khan MP, Labour’s Shadow Justice Secretary, has today written to Chris Grayling following the escape of two prisoners from HMP Kennet.
The full text of the letter is below:
Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP
Secretary of State for Justice
Ministry of Justice
102 Petty France
19 May 2014
I wrote to you on 8 May following the escape of the convicted armed robber Michael Wheatley after his release on temporary licence from HMP Standford Hill, a letter to which I have yet to receive a reply. While his subsequent capture was welcome, the Ministry of Justice still faces crucial questions as to whether mistakes were made that led to public safety being put at risk.
Two weeks later and two more serious criminals have escaped while out on licence, one of whom remains at large. It is reported that Arnold Pickering, who was jailed for killing a man in 1991, has previously absconded on two previous occasions.
Escapes of this nature are becoming commonplace under this Government. In addition, I would remind you that your Government saw the first Category A prisoner escape in two decades.
Public confidence in the functioning of our justice system is crucial to its success. This confidence has been badly undermined by these recent fiascos and, in order to provide some reassurance to the public, I must ask for answers to the following urgent questions:
- When was the decision taken to grant Mr Pickering and Mr Moffett release on temporary licence (ROTL)
- Why was this decision taken and for what reason was ROTL granted?
- Who took the decision, and was any role played by Ministers?
- Was a full risk assessment undertaken at the time of the decision being taken, and what did any such assessment say about the chances of Mr Pickering and Mr Moffett, who also failed to return to Kennet prison, absconding, re-offending or causing harm to himself or the public?
- What conditions were placed on both prisoners ROTL?
- In March, you announced the result of your review into ROTL which included the implementation of “a new scheme of restricted release on temporary licence for those prisoners who have committed serious crimes in the past”  Would Mr Pickering and Mr Moffett have been covered by this scheme and if not, why not?
- Has there been an increase, as some fear is happening because of rising overcrowding, in the number of serious and violent criminals being placed in open prisons since 2010?
I’m sure you’ll agree that swift answers to these questions are crucial to maintaining public confidence. I therefore look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible.
In light of the public concern over these cases I am releasing this letter to the media.
Rt. Hon Sadiq Khan MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Justice