November 24, 2022 3.30 pm This story is over 18 months old

Marshall in Mansfield: MP says rapist prison absconder “not a threat to Lincolnshire public”

He also gave his view on open prisons

Boston MP Matt Warman believes prison absconder Paul Marshall is “not a threat to the Lincolnshire public as he’s not in Lincolnshire” and says it is important to look at various factors when considering those placed in open prisons.

Mr Warman also acknowledged that, despite being the first abscond since a tightening of the open prison system, it was a “sign of failure”.

Earlier this week, Lincolnshire Police put out an appeal for information on the whereabouts of 53-year-old Marshall, who was serving a life life sentence at HMP North Sea Camp near Boston for rape and wounding with intent.

He was reported missing from the open prison on November 22 and Lincolnshire Police’s colleagues in Nottinghamshire recently released CCTV images showing Marshall in Mansfield town centre.

This is not the first time this year that prisoners have absconded from HMP North Sea Camp, and local MP Matt Warman has been in regular dialogue with the Prisons Minister, as recently as this week, about the issue.

He said the most recent tightening up of the system was as a result of the action that himself and others with similar situations in their constituencies have pushed for. This resulted in it being harder to transfer more serious prisoners into open conditions.

Marshall has been reported missing from the prison. | Photo: Lincolnshire Police

When asked if open prisons are safe, the Boston MP said: “Open prisons have been an important part of the prison system for decades.

“The most important thing is that you only get people who are not a threat to the public placed in open prisons, so by definition, anyone who walks out was in the wrong place.

“You have to consider their original offences as part of that, but also, bear in mind this individual in particular, is someone who’s been in prison in some form or other for almost all of the last four decades or so.

“For me, if you’ve got people who’ve absconded before, then they shouldn’t be going to open prisons.

“The whole point about this system is it only works if people who are given that degree of trust that comes with being in an open prison, respect it, and clearly the last few very public cases that we’ve had demonstrate that the system has failed by definition.

“You need to set that against the fact that overall the level of absconding is at historically low levels.

“We’ve recently tightened up the system, so that it’s harder to transfer more serious prisoners into open conditions.

“So it is a problem, it is a sign of failure, but we should also bear in mind that this the first time it’s happened since the system was tightened up.

“It’s a good thing that there’s only been one so far, but obviously it’s a bad thing because one is one too many.”

CCTV images released by Nottinghamshire Police

Warman said that “roughly two thirds, slightly less” of North Sea Camp’s inmates are sex offenders of some kind.

He added: “The original offence is a hugely important part of it, but it’s not the only factor that the parole board takes into account when they look at who is most likely to re-offend.

“As far as I’m concerned, by definition, if you walk out of an open prison in any form, regardless of how this particular individual ended up where he’s ended up, you should never have been there in the first place, and that is yet another failure of the parole board.

“That is a hugely frustrating position to be in. The idea of tightening up the system was that this would not happen, or it would happen less.

“This is the first time that it has happened, so we can’t yet say that it’s a trend, but it is a worrying sign and yet more reason to go and talk to the Prisons Minister again, and I was talking to him only earlier this week already.

“No-one is pretending that it isn’t a sign of failure, but we also should be realistic about the role and the benefit of open prisons in the overall justice system.”

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