Ministry of Justice refuses to disclose basic information about Leyhill inmates' offences and convictions
THE MINISTRY of Justice is refusing to divulge information regarding the severity of inmates' offences at Leyhill Open Prison, despite a murderer and rapist deemed "exceptionally dangerous" walking out last month.
The Gazette lodged a request under the Freedom of Information Act but the ministry declined to disclose the type of crimes committed by prisoners there.
Rejecting the inquiry, the ministry said revealing the information would be "unfair" and breach "data protection principles".
"The MoJ is not obliged, under section 40(2) of the Act, to provide information that is the personal information of another person if releasing would contravene any of the provisions in the Data Protection Act," a spokesman wrote.
"Disclosure would breach the fair processing principle, because it would be unfair on the person who the personal data relates to, and they have a reasonable expectation that the Department would hold that information in confidence."
The public's interest in such sensitive information had no bearing in the decision, he added.
"The terms of this exemption in the Freedom of Information Act mean that we do not have to consider whether or not it would be in the public interest for you to have the information."
The request was submitted by the Gazette after Adam Mark, a convicted rapist sentenced to life in jail, was reported missing from HMP Leyhill on July 30. It was the second time the 37-year-old described as "exceptionally dangerous" by police had absconded from an open prison since being found guilty of abducting and raping a woman, as well as attempting to abduct and rape two other women and rape a 12-year-old girl in 1996.
On July 15, convicted murderer Craig Black, 39, also walked out of Leyhill. He was arrested by police two days later after being spotted at a Tesco supermarket in Cirencester.
Craig Black was sent to prison in 1995 after brutally murdering Perrie Shiels in August 1994. District Councillor for Leyhill, John O'Neill, said the severity of inmates' crimes should be made public, especially to those living on the prison's doorstep.
"You only find out what they have done after they have absconded," he told the Gazette. "I think people should know what they have done. They should be releasing this type of information. You want to know if local people will be in danger."
As it stands residents have only had an insight into the type of offender jailed in Leyhill after they absconded.
Earlier this year Thornbury and Yate MP Steve Webb had called for tougher rules when vetting convicts for transfers to open prisons.
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