February 15, 2022 8.28 am

How missing dangerous sex offender Paul Robson ended up in an open prison

Once captured, Robson will be put in a closed prison

The Ministry of Justice has said “there will now be greater scrutiny of Parole Board recommendations on open prison moves” after dangerous sex offender Paul Robson absconded from HMP North Sea Camp near Boston.

Robson had only been released from prison on licence three weeks before a terrifying attack on a woman in Oxford in 2000. He was given a life sentence in 2000 for the attempted rape and indecent assault of his victim.

Robson’s tariff expired in August 2009 and in February 2021 the Parole Board recommended a move to open conditions after rejecting his release. The move was confirmed in June 2021, but Robson didn’t actually arrive at HMP North Sea Camp until January 21 this year.

The 56-year-old absconded from HMP North Sea Camp less than a month later, on Sunday, February 13, and was reported missing at 7am that morning.

Lincolnshire Police issued an appeal for information to help find him and admitted that Robson “may be anywhere in the country”. They believe he may be wearing a black long-sleeved Berghaus top, a grey “French” t-shirt, dark bottoms, a dark coloured woollen beanie and a light-grey donkey-style jacket with orange on the shoulder area.

Although last year absconds were at their second lowest level since 1995, with 101 taking place, Robson’s disappearance led to several questions as to why he was even in an open prison in the first place.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “Absconds from prison have more than halved since 2010 and are now extremely rare.

“Following a decision by the Deputy Prime Minister last year, there will now be greater scrutiny of Parole Board recommendations on open prison moves.

“The Deputy Prime Minister will oversee the decisions in the most high-risk cases personally.”

Once captured, Robson will return to closed prison and it will be a further two years before he is eligible for parole again. The fact that he has absconded will make it difficult for him to convince the Parole Board that he is suitable for release or open conditions.

The decision to previously transfer to open conditions was taken prior to Deputy PM Dominic Raab’s tenure as Justice Secretary. On becoming Justice Secretary he swiftly took the decision to provide greater oversight for decisions relating to the transfer of prisoners to open conditions in the most high-risk areas.

The Deputy Prime Minister is now involved in the decision-making process in the most high-risk cases, a change from previous Secretaries of State for Justice who delegated this power to HMPPS officials entirely.

Timeline of events

  • August 2009 – Robson’s tariff expired
  • February 2021 – Parole Board recommends move to open conditions after rejecting release
  • June 2021 – Robson’s move confirmed and prisoner informed
  • August 2021 – Transfer delayed after North Sea Camp operational capacity reduced
  • December 2021 – Transfer accepted by North Sea Camp
  • January 21,  2022 – Robson arrived at HMP North Sea Camp
  • February 13, 2022 – Robson absconds from HMP North Sea Camp