Call for investigation into open prison after ‘extremely violent’ absconder and ‘drugs mastermind’ cases spark safety fears

North Sea Camp
North Sea Camp

The people bidding to be the public face of policing in Lincolnshire have called for answers over big safety fears at North Sea Camp open prison.

Safety issues were highlighted at the Freiston Shore jail in The Standard last week after an inmate who had had sex with a 13-year-old and committed assault and robbery absconded.

The news came in the same week that it emerged a man was able to mastermind a big drugs and money laundering ring from within the Freiston Shore open prison.

Police and Crime Commissioner candidates have called for an investigation and steps to be taken to ensure neither case is allowed to happen again.

Ivan Leach, also known as Lee Cyrus, is serving a life sentence and did not return after being allowed out on day release on October 9.

His escape has now attracted wider attention after appearing on The Standard’s website.

Leach has previous convictions for having sex with a 13-year-old girl, attacking a woman with a screwdriver and robbing a 90-year-old widow.

Police, who described him as ‘extremely violent’, believe the 47-year-old is in Preston, where he previously lived.

Meanwhile Damien Miller was one of eleven people jailed for almost 40 years for supply of class A drugs and money laundering in Stoke-on-Trent at Stafford Crown Court on Thursday and Friday.

The group was linked to a rise in violent incidents in the Staffordshire city with Miller one of the key people controlling the group.

Miller, convicted in 2008 for conspiracy to supply cocaine, was serving the latter part of his sentence at North Sea Camp.

For his rehabilitation, Miller left the prison daily to carry out employment in the area but used this time for his operation.

Miller, 31, a Stoke-on-Trent man and serving prisoner, was sentenced to 10 years after pleading guilty to conspiracy to supply heroin and cocaine.

The prison governor worked with police to put a stop to his actions. The Ministry of Justice says prisoners are ‘rigorously risk assessed’.

The issues follow a number of court cases this year involving offenders absconding from open prison, with concerns raised by a judge about problems there in July.

Richard Davies, Conservative Party candidate for the police and crime commissioner role, said: “I believe the current trend of prisoners absconding is completely unacceptable. I’m struggling to to understand why people who clearly have a dangerous and violent past are put into an environment from which they can escape and go onto to harm others.”

He added: “The criminal justice system has some very serious questions to answer after the recent Miller and Leach cases and I would expect measures to be put into place to prevent this happening again.

“These men have left a trail of devastation behind them and the public deserves to be protected from them.

“It would appear that North Sea Camp have failed not only their most recent victims but also the wider Lincolnshire population.

“I want to know who is responsible and what has been done to make sure this never happens again. Is that to much to ask?”

David Bowles, standing for the new role for the Campaign to keep politicians out of policing, agreed with Mr Davies and added that he could not believe Leach was allowed in North Sea Camp in the first place.

He said: “The mind boggles. What is such a lifer doing in North Sea Camp? The investigation should not just be North Sea Camp but also why agreed that he should be sent there.”

Independent Alan Hardwick said he was impressed with the facilities at North Sea Camp when he visited and stressed it does do a good job of rehabilitating people for the outside world as they reach the end of their sentences.

He told The Standard: “If some prisoners abuse the trust they not only jeopardise the system for the majority who genuinely benefit from their time at North Sea Camp, but also cause consternation in the wider community.

“I do think the country needs prisons like North Sea Camp. I have no doubt that a series of rigorous investigations is already under way and I would urge that the results are made public as soon as possible - not least to offer reassurance to local people.

“They need to know that their own security and safety are regarded as paramount.”

Independent Mervyn Barrett agreed with Mr Hardwick about the role played by North Sea Camp and added: “With hindsight, the authorities should not have sent Ivan Leach to an open prison, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. However, there is nothing wrong in principle in sending serious offenders to open prisons towards the end of their sentences, if they are judged not to be a risk.”

He added: “In the case of Damien Miller, the authorities caught on pretty quickly that Miller was up to no good and they dealt with him effectively – just as they should.”

Labour’s Paul Gleeson also joined the calls for an investigation into what went wring in the case of Leach.

He said: “The recent reported incidents from North Sea Camp raise serious questions as to whether the system is working properly. It would appear at face value from the recent reports that these prisoners should not have been in an open prison, so North Sea Camp does have questions to answer.”

Mr Gleeson believes the country is sending too many people to prison and believes rehabilitation would be more effective if some criminal behaviour was ‘nipped in the bud’.

The Standard is still waiting for answers to a number of questions arising from the two cases.

As yet the Ministry of Justice has only issued the following statement: “Prisoners may be released on temporary licence providing they meet strict criteria and pass a rigorous risk assessment.

“They must also adhere to a strict set of conditions – those who breach them will face disciplinary proceedings and could be returned to a closed prison.”