25th May, 2020

Coventry convict who escaped jail due to Covid-19 fears persuaded back by his mum

A man who went on the run from an open prison because he was worried about a fellow-inmate being infected with Covid-19 was quickly persuaded by his mother to hand himself in.

And Callum Holland’s four hours of freedom has led to a judge adding eight months to the original eight-and-a-half years he is back serving in a higher-security jail.

Holland (24) of Ansty Road, Coventry, had pleaded guilty at Warwick Crown Court to escaping from lawful custody.

Prosecutor Patrick Sullivan said that in 2017 Holland had been jailed for eight-and-a-half years for his part in the robbery of a cash-in-transit guard and two burglaries.

By May this year he was at HMP Spring Hill, a ‘category D’ open prison near Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire.

On April 4 he was seen running out of the prison grounds and across a field to a road where someone picked him up and drove him back to Coventry.

Holland went to his mother’s home, but she already knew of his escape because the police had been in touch with her – and she ‘prevailed on him to surrender himself.’

And just ‘four hours or so’ after absconding from the jail, he turned up at Coventry central police station to hand himself in, said Mr Sullivan.

He explained to officers that he had been struggling from stress within the prison environment, and that another prisoner had symptoms of Covid-19 – which had prompted his decision to escape.

But Judge Andrew Lockhart QC commented: “The aggravating feature is that he walked out during the lockdown. He had to be found and interacted with by the officers.”

The court heard that Holland’s earliest date of release from the robbery sentence was October next year, but the judge observed: “This is going to make a real difference to the date when he sees his family.”

Nicola Purches, defending, pointed out: “He was in fact back in custody within four hours. He voluntarily attended Coventry central police station.

“He was an enhanced prisoner until the time he absconded, but he had genuine fears within the prison establishment.”

She argued that Holland’s escape had not been planned – but that was rejected by Judge Lockhart who responded: “Someone came from Coventry to collect him.”

Jailing Holland for eight months consecutive to his current sentence, Judge Lockhart told him: “Escaping is thought of as a victimless crime. But it is not, it offends against justice.

“You have an appalling record. The prison service saw fit to place you on trust in an open prison. They were wrong about that.

“You chose to take matters into your own hands because you believed the prison authorities were not acting in the way they should over the Covid-19 outbreak.

“It is absolutely not the right of someone in custody to walk out, no matter what the circumstances.

“I am quite certain you spoke to someone and arranged for them to come and collect you. Plainly there was outside assistance and some planning.

“Had you not had that input from your mother, you would have stayed away.

“I bear in mind you may have had some concerns about what was happening in prison, but they are things that should have been dealt with in a different way.”

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