MP brands sex offender Paul Robson's escape from open prison a 'failure of the system'

An MP says it is a "failure of the system" that a dangerous sex offender has been allowed to escape from an open prison.

A manhunt is underway to find Paul Robson, 56, who absconded from HMP North Sea Camp in Boston, Lincolnshire, on Sunday, where he was serving a life sentence for attempted rape and indecent assault.

He has been described as a "particular danger to women and young children".

Matt Warman, the Conservative MP for Boston and Skegness, said he had raised concerns about the prison's security "repeatedly" with the Ministry of Justice.

Mr Warman said: "Any absconding from North Sea Camp is deeply worrying for local people, and it’s a sign of a failure within the system that should be making sure only those suitable for open prisons are placed there. 

"This is a matter I’ve raised repeatedly with the MoJ and others, and while it’s welcome that numbers have fallen from previous levels, there is clearly more work to do.

"As the system is currently being reformed, I will continue to press for permanent changes to improve the system and ensure public safety. In the meantime, the public should remain vigilant.”

Newcastle-born Robson was jailed at Oxford Crown Court in 2000 after he entered a woman’s home through a cat flap before tying her up, putting a pillowcase over her head, and brutally assaulting her while holding a knife to her throat.

Police are advising anyone who sees Robson not to approach him and to call 999 immediately.

The Parole Board told ITV News Robson was moved to North Sea Camp a year ago after being refused release.

Labour said Justice Secretary, Dominic Raab, has "serious questions to answer" following the Government's decision to deem Robson fit for the open prison following a Parole Board recommendation in February last year.

A spokesperson said: "The Parole Board refused the release of Paul Robson but recommended a move to an open conditions prison following an oral hearing in February 2021.

 "This was a recommendation only and the Secretary of State for Justice considers the advice before making the final decision on whether a prisoner is suitable for open conditions. 

 "We will only make a recommendation for open conditions if a Parole Board panel is satisfied that the risk to the public has reduced sufficiently to be manageable in an open prison.  

 "A move to open conditions involves testing the prisoner’s readiness for any potential return into the community in future. Prisoners moved to open conditions can be returned to closed conditions if there is concern about their behaviour."

Robson was moved to HMP North Sea Camp earlier this month. Credit: PA

HMP North Sea Camp is a category D men’s open prison that holds a large proportion of sex offenders and those serving indeterminate sentences, according to an inspector’s report following a scrutiny visit in April last year.

The report, published in June, said 70% of prisoners were assessed as “presenting a high risk of harm to others” and more than half were convicted of sex offences.

The Parole Board added that Robson's tariff for his minimum sentence in prison expired in 2009 and that it was recommended he was moved to open conditions after his fifth parole hearing.

They also said that there was expert testimony from two individuals that supported the move of Robson to an open prison.

The government's Prison Service has not commented on the background to Robson's escape, but a spokesperson said: "The prison together with the police are working urgently to recapture the offender."