Eleven foreign inmates abscond from open prison

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The Independent Online

The Home Office has been forced to transfer all foreign prisoners from an open prison after 11 walked out in less than a month.

In another admission of failure, it emerged that confidential deportation papers had been mistakenly faxed to a member of the public over a period of two years.

The developments put more pressure on John Reid, the new Home Secretary, who has been trying to get a grip on his department.

Emergency action was ordered at Ford open prison, near Arundel, West Sussex, from where 11 foreign inmates facing possible deportation have absconded since 1 May. They include Ransford James Baker, a Jamaican drug dealer.

In an operation involving 500 prison service officers and police in riot gear, all 141 foreign inmates in Ford were moved to higher security jails around Britain yesterday. However, another 257 foreigners will continue to be held in minimum security conditions.

Phil Wheatley, chief executive of the prison service, said: "At the moment I do not know how many of the 11 have been caught. They have all been reported to the police."

The Home Office owned up to a further blunder after a builder, Roger Booker, said he had received nearly 20 deportation orders for foreign prisoners on his home fax machine. The Prison Service even sent him background papers, including criminal record sheets.

Mr Booker, from Bicester, Oxfordshire, said he complained repeatedly, but to no effect. "It's no wonder the whole department is in such a shambles that they can send stuff like this to me."