SECURITY measures need to be tightened at Appleton Thorn YOI to reduce the risk of inmates absconding, according to an MP.

David Mowat, MP for Warrington South, warned the case of notorious robber Michael Wheatley - known as the skullcracker - who absconded when on day release from an open prison in Kent to be arrested on suspicion of robbery, ‘could have happened at Appleton Thorn’.

Appleton Thorn YOI, an open prison, also houses adults guilty of robbery, and other violent crimes such as murder, and wounding with intent.

Some are released into the community as part of rehabilitation programmes.

“Clearly, Mr Wheatley was assessed wrongly,” said Mr Mowat.

“It could be said for inmates at Appleton Thorn.

“Let’s be clear, he could have been at Appleton Thorn, because his type of offending is such he is suitable to be there.

“Lessons need to be learned from Mr Wheatley.”

As revealed in the Warrington Guardian, there has been an average of one prisoner absconding every two weeks from the open prison on Arley Road, in the last two years.

Prison bosses say they are making things ‘a lot tougher’ in a bid to reduce the number of people absconding, and that the focus is on ‘protecting the public’.

Mr Mowat says he has raised the issue in a letter to prisons minister Jeremy Wright, calling for security to be increased.

The Conservative MP is suggesting more fencing, and the use of electronic monitoring.

“Once a fortnight (for absconding) is clearly too high,” he said.

“They need to look at measures to stop that.

“Inmates should be tagged when they go out of prison.

“It’s a much harder thing for them not to go back, if they are being electronically monitored.”

Mr Mowat also says there needs to be ‘better communication’ with the community, after residents were shocked by the frequency of absconding.

He backed the need for open prisons.

“You can’t lock people up forever. I don’t think that’s right,” he added.

“I do think we should be focusing on getting people right to leave prison.”