When people are convicted of a crime and put in jail, they lose some of the rights of citizenship: the right to vote and the right to keep and bear arms among them. In Britain, however, the Ministry of Justice has decided that one right supervenes all others: the right to privacy for escaped prisoners:
Civil servants have refused to name inmates who have fled prison even though individual police forces will often identify them if they pose a risk to the public.
They say releasing their names would breach obligations under the Data Protection Act.
It echoes a row in 2007 when Derbyshire Police refused to release pictures of two escaped murderers.
The latest development emerged in response to Freedom Of Information requests to name inmates on the run from the prison near Woodbridge, Suffolk.
The open prison which has sea views and once held Tory peer Jeffrey Archer is known as Holiday Bay because of its easy-going regime.
The Ministry of Justice confirmed 39 prisoners had absconded from Hollesley Bay between January 1, 2007, to March 31, 2009.
It also provided a general list of crimes they were sentenced for and confirmed that 16 involved violence.
The offenders included nine robbers, two serving sentences for attempted robbery, one for wounding and four others for grievous bodily harm.
I’m sure the British people are reassured by Her Majesty’s Government’s concern for the privacy rights of even the least among her subjects, including ax-murderers on the lam. And I’m sure further innovations in the civil rights of prisoners are on the way:
"Next up on BBC-2, ‘Do bars on cell doors discriminate against the innocence-challenged community?’"