February 15, 2022 9.22 pm

‘Shouldn’t be in open prison’: People living next to HMP North Sea Camp speak out on absconder Paul Robson

“You just get used to it sadly because it happens so frequently.”

Residents on the same street as HMP North Sea Camp near Boston are questioning how the dangerous convicted sex offender Paul Robson, who absconded at the weekend, was even allowed in an open prison in the first place.

HMP North Sea Camp is a men’s open prison on Croppers Lane in Freiston near Boston. It is a category D prison for males over the age of 18, and over 100 prisoners have absconded from there in the last decade.

The latest to do so is Paul Robson, 56, who was given a life sentence for the attempted rape and indecent assault of a woman in Oxford in 2000, when he accessed her home through a cat flap.

Robson tied up his 23-year-old victim and put a pillow case over her head before sexually assaulting her at knife point. He had only been released from prison on licence three weeks before this attack at the turn of the millennium.

He was described as a “menace to females” at his sentencing hearing at Oxford Crown Court, and he had five parole requests refused before being moved to North Sea Camp on January 21 this year.

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

Less than a month later, on Sunday, February 13, he was reported missing after absconding from the open prison, and he is still missing days later, with police saying he “may be anywhere in the country” by now.

There is fear in the local community, as well as anger at how someone with a criminal track record like Robson’s was placed in a low category open prison, considering police comments that he poses a “real risk of causing significant harm” to members of the public.

Comments on social media in response to The Lincolnite‘s story on Robson were calling it “incompetence” from the Ministry of Justice, while many questioned the decision making of the parole board.

North Sea Camp is an open prison near Boston for category D criminals. It has been open since 1935. | Photo: John Aron for The Lincolnite

We went out to Frieston and spoke to Greg P *name withheld on request, 40, who lives technically as a neighbour to the open prison. He said that while the Paul Robson case has garnered national attention, it is far from the first time a prisoner has absconded from North Sea Camp.

Greg, who has been living in the area for over 20 years, told us: “When we heard about it on the news the immediate reaction was ‘oh another one’. You just get used to it sadly because it happens so frequently.

“Last summer I was out with one of my dogs and we found a prison absconder hiding in crops in our garden.

“It doesn’t worry me as such because I’ve got eight dogs to protect me, but if I were elderly, alone or female I would definitely feel differently.”

North Sea Camp has what’s known as a ‘resettlement unit’ to help prisoners integrate slowly back into society following their sentence. | Photo: John Aron for The Lincolnite

Discussing Paul Robson, Greg said: “He shouldn’t have been in there, and it just makes you wonder how many of the prisoners are like him, which is a shame because the whole situation also makes you think about how some of the honest rehabilitating prisoners feel about it all.

“Category D prisons should really mean less severe crime, but it normally ends up being people coming to the end of long sentences. I think he should be in a much higher security prison, I just hope he doesn’t do anything to anyone while he’s out.

“It’s natural to be fearful. My partner locks the doors much more often now and we never leave broken glass in the bin because we don’t want it to end up back in the prison.

“We put our guards up for a bit but then you gradually get back to normal, but all it takes is a case as big as this one to trigger those feelings again.”

Residents nearby have said they aren’t sure why Robson was allowed in an open prison. | Photo: John Aron for The Lincolnite

Another person living on the street, who asked to be kept anonymous, said they actually felt safer living nearby to the prison, because absconders wouldn’t stay nearby to the place they are escaping.

They told The Lincolnite: “I obviously understand the worry from the local community, this man should not be in an open prison in my opinion, but living closer is almost easier in a way, because you know anyone absconding will want to get as far away as possible.

“I moved here four years ago and knew about the prison when buying the house, so I’m perhaps less fearful than others. Plus I have big dogs to look after me should anything happen!”

Paul Robson has still not been caught by police. If you have seen him or know his whereabouts, officers are urging you not to approach him as he is “extremely dangerous”, and you should instead call 101 or 999 and quote incident 75 of February 13.