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MP seeks answers on prisoner escape
THE Justice Secretary will face questions in Parliament next week over the escape of a violent prisoner who absconded while carrying out community work at a North- East visitor attraction.
Tom Blenkinsop, MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, will ask Ken Clarke why Bernard Lee Sharkey was allowed to work at the leisure farm at Newham Grange, in Coulby Newham, Middlesbrough.
Sharkey was jailed in 2006 after being convicted of being part of a gang armed with a samurai sword and baseball bat which laid siege to a home in Middlesbrough, shouting death threats at the occupier.
He was serving his sentence at Kirklevington Prison and absconded last Thursday while carrying out community work at the attraction.
The Labour MP said he was somewhat amazed that the Prison Service thought it was appropriate to allow a prisoner serving an indefinite sentence for public protection to work in a family environment.
He said: “While rehabilitation is important, it was quite clearly not the correct decision in this instance to permit him to work in such a place.
“In the House of Commons, I will be asking Ken Clarke, the Secretary of State who is responsible for prisons in England and Wales, a series of questions surrounding the circumstances of this escape.
“My constituents deserve to know what risk assessment was undertaken by the Prison Service, how often similar incidents have happened in the past elsewhere in both the region and the country, and what steps the Prison Service will take to stop the public being put at risk by any future such occurrences.”
Mr Blenkinsop said he would also be asking the Home Secretary, Theresa May, how much it cost police forces to find escaped prisoners like Sharkey.
“I will also be asking whether the Prison Service compensates local police forces involved in such manhunts,”
the MP said.
Mr Blenkinsop has written to Cleveland Police and the Prison Service asking for an update on the search for the escapee.
Police said Sharkey was picked up and driven away in a silver saloon car.
Members of the public have been warned not to approach him.