Row over responsibility for missing dangerous prisoner

Jonathan Turley was granted compassionate bail for eight hours on May 9
Jonathan Turley was granted compassionate bail for eight hours on May 9

There has been anger and recriminations over a dangerous prisoner who jumped bail to go on the run.

In May police told the public not to approach Jonathan Turley, 33, a prisoner who failed to return to Magilligan Prison and who had “an extensive history of violence”. He remains on the run.

DUP peer Lord Morrow has blamed the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) for failing to advise police to object to bail. But the PPS said the application was never confirmed so it could not have alerted police to object.

Lord Morrow said: “To have a violent person, who had recently been returned to custody on fresh charges, freed without challenge in court, has left the public at risk of a very dangerous individual.”

The chief constable, he said, advised him that police were alerted by the PPS of a potential bail application the day before, and a file had been prepared to object to any release.

A police officer was on standby to attend the court hearing but was not alerted by the PPS and did not attend the May 9 hearing to object.

But a PPS spokeswoman said Lord Morrow made “no effort” to contact it to check the facts of this case.

“Had he done so, he would have been made aware that the PPS was not informed of the date and time of this case by Courts Service staff,” she said.

The PPS was advised that a compassionate bail application was being considered but was not informed of the actual court arrangements. “The PPS was therefore never in a position to inform police.”

A PPS prosecutor was in court but was not briefed and asked for an adjournment, but the district judge turned this down and granted bail, she added.

A spokeswoman for the Lord Chief Justice said a compassionate bail application was not lodged with the court office but the matter was raised in court by Mr Turley’s solicitor on May 9.

“Article 5 of the ECHR requires that courts must release an accused on bail pending their trial unless the prosecuting authorities can show there is relevant and sufficient reason to justify their continued detention,” she said.

“The court record notes that the defendant’s solicitor advised the court that the PSNI had been put on notice and objected but they were not in attendance.” There is no court record on whether the PPS raised any objection.

The judge granted compassionate bail for eight hours and into the custody of a third person who posted bail, on the condition that he only attend the hospital and did not contact witnesses, she added.