A man who absconded from an open prison and attempted to kidnap a young girl from her school has been handed a lengthy jail term.

John Harris, 36, left HMP Leyhill on October 16 and and trespassed on to the grounds of a school before grabbing and threatening to take a child.

Teachers took the child to safety and removed Harris from the building before they locked down the school while Harris continued to try windows and doors.

Police were called and arrived a short time later to arrest him.

Harris pleaded guilty on November 16 to charges of escaping from lawful custody, kidnapping, and breaching a Sexual Offences Prevention Order.

The order prevented him from communicating with children aged under the age of 16, which he was prohibited from doing by a sexual offences prevention order made by Woolwich Crown Court in 2009.

Harris was sentenced at Bristol Crown Court on Friday, November 23.

He was jailed for seven years and six months, and sent back to a secure prison to serve his sentence.

Harris was also given an additional four years extended licence bringing the total sentence to 11 years six months.

He was originally serving a sentence for a similar offence committed in a hospital in London.

Detective Constable Jo Johnson, officer in the case, said: “Harris is a dangerous individual and the sentence and comments from the judge in court reflect that.

“The judge praised the actions of the teachers and the procedures at the school which is what kept the victim and the other children safe during what must have been a very frightening incident for everyone.”

Harris is one of a number of prisoners to escape from HMP Leyhill in recent years.

In August John-Paul Knowlson and Stuart O’Neill, two convicted rapists, absconded before being caught by police.

Convicted killer Keith Whitehouse absconded from the prison in February but was arrested after being spotted by a member of the public.

Whitehouse is currently serving a life sentence for manslaughter, committed in 1991, when he was given a home release from prison. At the time he was serving a sentence for kidnap.

Two sexual offenders who absconded from the prison in 2017 were caught five days later in Humberside.

In total nine prisoners absconded from the jail last year.

Responding to the latest incident a Prison Service spokesperson said: “We understand the concern this incident may cause and public protection will always be our top priority.

“Absconds from open prison are extremely rare and we work closely with police to ensure prisoners are recaptured.

“Those who abscond serve extra time behind bars in a closed prison. We cannot comment further while legal proceedings are ongoing.”

Leyhill is the only minimum-security prison in the South West.

As an open jail prisoners are trusted to serve their sentences with minimal supervision.

Prisoners are expected to assume more responsibility and make informed decisions for themselves.

Leyhill offers training opportunities in the community where prisoners are permitted to leave the site to access work experience and improve their chance of gaining employment.