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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 July 2006, 17:20 GMT 18:20 UK
Only four of 23 lifers recaptured
John Reid
The home secretary was responding in a Commons written answer
Just four of 23 life prisoners found to be on the run a month ago have been recaptured, the home secretary says.

One of the lifers has been on the run for more than a decade.

John Reid revealed in a Commons answer that 21 of the lifers are murderers, one was convicted of manslaughter, and one of robbery and having a firearm.

The Lib Dems said the news was a blow to public confidence in criminal justice. The Tories accused ministers of "serial incompetence".

Mr Reid said: "Four of the 23 offenders unlawfully at large at the beginning of June when the information was collated are now back in custody.

"Police continue to pursue vigorously all information and lines of enquiry in order to find these offenders and effect a swift return to custody."

Loss of grip?

One of the offenders who is "unlawfully at large" has managed to avoid the police and probation officers for between eight and 10 years, and another for between six and eight years,

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Nick Clegg said: "This is yet another serious blow to public confidence in the criminal justice system.

"Serious questions need to be asked about the probation service's capacity if they can fail for a whole decade to supervise a serious offender."

Shadow home secretary David Davis said it beggared belief that the government could lose so many dangerous criminals.

"How much longer must the public be put at risk by the consequences of this government's loss of grip?" he asked.

"The public will not be reassured by the fact that, having discovered this three weeks ago, the Government have located just four of them."


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