Court security concerns as prisoner still on run

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The Independent Online

Concerns were raised today about security at a court from which a convicted killer absconded.

James Stevenson, 29, went on the run after making a dramatic escape in Swansea, South Wales, at Friday lunchtime.

Despite a major police manhunt, initially spearheaded by the South Wales Police helicopter, he remained at large today.

The National Offender Management Service is carrying out an investigation into the escape, which is believed to have happened from a basement custody suite at Swansea Crown Court's Guildhall building, which is used as an overspill court.

From there it is believed Stevenson gained access to the building's flat roof before shinning down a drainpipe and running off.

He had just been given a five-year prison sentence after being found with a single-barrelled shotgun in June of this year.

He was also in breach of a court order restricting him from owning a firearm.

Police have warned the public against approaching Stevenson, who as a prisoner would have had no money on him.

He was last seen heading towards Oystermouth Road and the nearby sea front dressed in jeans and a navy tracksuit top.

After his escape it emerged that he was jailed for five years in 2002 for choking his mother's boyfriend to death.

The South Wales Evening Post has also reported that Stevenson briefly escaped from a prison in Dorset in 2005 but was caught after just half an hour.

Rene Kinzett, leader of the Tory group on Swansea Council, said he wanted to see a report compiled into the incident.

"I'm concerned that whilst the Guildhall is a very grand building," said councillor Kinzett, "and judges and lawyers like to have their cases heard there, the facilities are inadequate to hold offenders, especially dangerous offenders such as a killer in this case, who has form for doing a runner.

"It sounds like he was being kept in a holding room with a window rather than a cell.

"It seems to be wholly inappropriate and inadequate that we have a dangerous offender held in a room unsupervised with an escape option."

He added: "All the agencies involved have something to answer for including the (Her Majesty's) Court Services, the Ministry of Justice and their contractors, Reliance.

"I hope there is going to be a report so we can find out what happened, what went wrong and how they can stop it happening again in the future but my main concern at the moment is to stop this man."

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: "The National Offender Management Service is carrying out an investigation.

"All agencies concerned are co-operating fully with the police to bring this incident to a conclusion. This is a matter for South Wales Police."

Stevenson's distinguishing features include a tattoo of a Chinese dragon on the back of his neck and part of his right ear is missing.

Anyone with information is urged to call South Wales Police on 999 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.