Second prisoner wrongly released in North

Second prisoner wrongly released in North

A second prisoner has been wrongly released from custody in the North within a week, it was announced today.

Justice Minister David Ford expressed his regret as he informed the Assembly that 25-year-old Connelly James Cummins was freed by mistake from Downpatrick Crown Court on Friday.

The fugitive, who is still at large, is due to stand trial for theft, aggravated vehicle taking and using a vehicle without insurance.

The revelation comes only days after Mr Ford announced that a Lithuanian man charged with serious sexual offences was accidentally released from prison.

An international police operation involving Interpol and officers from both sides of the Irish border is still ongoing to trace Devidas Paliutis, 27, who was let out of Maghaberry Prison last Wednesday.

Mr Ford ordered a full inquiry when it was revealed the man was freed when charges against him were withdrawn during court proceedings, but officials failed to spot that they had been substituted with fresh charges.

The minister said the second incident would also now be examined by the inquiry.

After making a statement to the assembly on the first prisoner, Mr Ford said: "I also regret to inform the House of a separate incident on Friday where another prisoner was released erroneously from Downpatrick Crown Court.

"The prisoner Connelly James Cummins had been produced in court because of an alleged breach of a Custody Probation Order. That matter was dismissed by the Court.

"It is my understanding, however, that Mr Cummins's file was marked 'Hold' on the basis that he is still awaiting trial on other charges, namely theft, aggravated vehicle taking and using a vehicle without insurance.

"It appears that a Prison Custody Officer failed to take these charges into account and released Mr Cummins in error.

"Again, I would seek to assure the House that appropriate steps were taken to respond to the incident as soon as the error was discovered, which was within minutes of the prisoner being set free.

"The PSNI were informed and have issued a force-wide alert in relation to Mr Cummins, who is still unlawfully at large.

He added: "Can I conclude by assuring the House that I take these issues extremely seriously. I will be following the progress of the inquiry closely, and will ensure that the House is advised of the lessons learned and the changes made to prevent any future occurrence."


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