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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 March, 2004, 18:35 GMT
Tag defended after offender flees
Gary Allen
Gary Allen: Arrested in Porthtowan
Probation officials have defended a decision to allow a sex offender out of jail - even though he fled after removing his electronic tag.

Gary Allen, 30, vanished from a hostel in Camborne, Cornwall, on Wednesday but handed himself to police the next day.

However, Peter Vallis, from Devon and Cornwall probation service, said there was always a risk prisoners would remove the tags.

He said: "Everyone agreed tagging was appropriate in this case."

Allen had been sentenced to five-and-a-half years in jail at Plymouth Crown Court in 2000 for indecent assault. He will be returned to prison to serve the remainder of his sentence.

He had been freed early from jail on licence, which allows prisoners to be rehabilitated in the community before their official release date.

Devon and Cornwall Probation Service made a decision to place a tag on Allen for the first two months of his licence, even though they are not obliged to do so.

The electronic tag, which monitors an offender's movements, triggers an alarm if it is removed.

Mr Vallis, the probation service's assistant chief officer in the region, told BBC News Online a decision was made to tag Allen after a meeting between the probation service, police, social services and housing agencies.

He said: "He (Allen) would have been coming out of jail anyway, with a tag or without, so we had conditions put on his prison licence that he should be released with a tag.

"We thought it was the best way to protect the public."

The tags were designed to be tamper proof, but they were "not that difficult to get off for a determined person".

"Some prisoners do reject the restrictions," he said.

"They find it so demanding that they go back to prison, or do a runner.

"He had had enough and he went."

No inquiry

Mr Vallis said there would be no inquiry into the case.

He said: "If someone had committed a further offence then there would be an inquiry but in this case he was gone for 24 hours and we are not aware of any further offences."

Shadow home secretary David Davis warned the number of prisoners released early will rise sharply after figures on Monday showed a record 75,000 inmates in Britain's jails.

Mr Davis said: "The public assume electronic tagging is only applied to those who are no longer a danger to the community.

"We feel the Home Office is all too quick to release people early because of a squeeze on prison spaces which are at a premium.

"Prisons are now full to capacity and we would not be surprised if we were to see a steady stream of early releases to free up cells for new prisoners."

But Mr Vallis said: "We are not under any intolerable pressure at the moment."

A Prison Service spokesman said there were about 3,600 former prisoners with electronic tags.

Figures showed that 9% of those with tags reoffended within six months of their release compared with 40% of those without tags.

Sex offender ends run from police
11 Mar 04  |  Cornwall
Police hunt tagged sex offender
10 Mar 04  |  Cornwall
Q&A: Electronic tagging
14 Jan 04  |  UK
Tagged youth jailed for killing
16 May 03  |  England

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