More than 26,000 suspected criminals, including alleged rapists and paedophiles, have gone on the run after being bailed in the past three years, figures show.
A member of the Prison Officers’ Association said the figures, released to the Daily Mirror newspaper in response to a Freedom of Information request, were shocking and indicated overcrowding in jails is leading to people being granted bail due to lack of space.
The information from the Metropolitan Police showed 26,312 suspects who had disappeared after being released on bail, and covers the London area only.
Steve Gillan, general secretary of the Prison Officers’ Association said prison closures and staff cuts have put pressure on the system.
He told the Mirror: “People appear to be getting granted bail to cope with the lack of space inside our prisons. That isn’t right.”
A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said: “The figures include Crown Court bench warrants, failure to appear magistrates’ warrants, breaches of court orders and orders by other prosecuting agencies that are not issued by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS).
“The figures also include those individuals who have subsequently been arrested.
“The MPS recognises that pre-charge bail decisions impact on victims, witnesses and suspects.
“We are committed to maximising every investigative opportunity to bring offenders to justice swiftly and we aim to finalise investigations wherever possible during the first period of detention.
“The MPS is committed to finding people who fail to attend court or attempt to evade justice. We will not give up in the search and we will use every means available to find them. Active operations are in place to find wanted suspects and bring them back before the courts.”
Yesterday it was revealed that 77 prisoners have escaped from British jails in the last 10 years without being recaptured.
International drugs traffickers and firearms owners sentenced to life are also among the absconded prisoners who escaped between April 2004 and March 2014 and remain unlawfully at large, the Ministry of Justice data showed.
Justice minister Simon Hughes, who released the list, said the number of escapes has reduced by 80% over the last 10 years.