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Escaped prisoners’ names to be kept under wraps

You will never know the identities of more than a dozen prisoners on the run from jails in Kent after the Information Commissioner agreed they should remain anonymous.

Last May, following a Kent Messenger Freedom of Information Act request, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) revealed 14 inmates were at large having escaped from prisons in the county in the last decade.

Among those was a killer, a people smuggler and a man convicted of carrying a gun with intent.

East Sutton Park open prison in Sutton Valence has lost 55 per cent of its prison officers since 2010
East Sutton Park open prison in Sutton Valence has lost 55 per cent of its prison officers since 2010

While the MoJ provided details of the convicts’ crimes and the date and place of their escapes it refused to say who they were, citing data protection laws.

The KM appealed this decision, arguing that in order to bring the offenders to justice their identities should be made public, but the MoJ refused to budge saying ‘personal sensitive data’, such as names, would be released “only where absolutely necessary to satisfy a risk-assessed lawful purpose”.

Now, more than year later, commissioner Elizabeth Denham, who is responsible for upholding information rights, has backed the decision.

A spokesman for her office said while there was a legitimate public interest in naming the escaped prisoners doing so could impact police investigations and their families.

He said: “She notes the requested information is considered to be ‘sensitive’ personal data.

Standford Hill Prison, Eastchurch
Standford Hill Prison, Eastchurch

"Disclosure of sensitive data must have justification, whatever the circumstances of the individual.

“It is clearly possible for the sensitive personal data to be fair.

"Individuals who have been charged or convicted of crimes will often have to expect disclosure of some information about them and their actions, particularly during the judicial process and sometimes after it.

“However, in the circumstances the commissioner accepts it would be unfair to disclose the information requested, in terms of it being the prisoners’ personal data and to do so would contravene the first data protection principle.”

Prisoners on the run

Ten men are still on the run from Standford Hill, Sheppey, while four women are at large following escapes from East Sutton Park, in Sutton Valence. Both are open prisons.

Standford Hill

April 7, 2005 – Conspiracy to defraud
May 19, 2005 – Possessing an offensive weapon
November 26, 2005 – Deception
December 2, 2005 – Deception
December 3, 2005 – Trespass with intent
March 1, 2006 – Assisting illegal immigrants
March 19, 2008 – Contempt of court
June 2, 2008 – Burglary
November 11, 2008 – Possessing a firearm with intent
December 2, 2008 – Burglary

East Sutton Park

April 9, 2005 – Importing/exporting drugs
April 9, 2005 – Importing/exporting drugs
November 28, 2005 – Customs evasion
September 16, 2006 – Manslaughter

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