Serious British offenders at large

July 6, 2009 at 7:22 PM
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LONDON, July 6 (UPI) -- Nearly 1,000 serious British offenders, including 19 convicted murderers, are at large when they should be behind bars, government figures reveal.

National Offender Management Services said 935 offenders, who also include rapists and others convicted of serious crimes, should have been sent back to jail after having their probation revoked, the BBC reported Monday. They had been freed from prisons in England and Wales between January 1999 and this past March.

While British Justice Secretary Jack Straw says the administration has improved its efforts to reduce the number of offenders who should be locked up but aren't, Conservative leaders said the Labor government has been "reckless" with its early-release program and "lax" in monitoring offenders on probation.

Straw said fewer than 1 percent of recalled offenders had not been returned to jail between 1999 and 2008.

"Ten times more offenders are being recalled to prison each year than before 1997 as a result of our tough new recall regime," he said.

Still, Straw said, more needs to be done.

But Shadow Justice Secretary Dominic Grieve said the situation was shocking.

"The public will be shocked that the government has lost track of almost 1,000 criminal fugitives -- including murderers, pedophiles and sex offenders," Grieve said. "Labor's reckless early-release scheme and lax approach to probation is putting the public at greater risk. Cuts to front line probation services will only make this situation even worse."

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