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Thursday, 4 August 2011

GANGSTER Colin Gunn has continued to plot his escape from prison over the past five months

12:19 |

GANGSTER Colin Gunn has continued to plot his escape from prison over the past five months, according to new intelligence information.

The man behind the murder of Lincolnshire couple John and Joan Stirland is now one of just two Category A prisoners in the country assessed as being an "exceptional" escape risk.

‘EXCEPTIONAL’ ESCAPE RISK: Colin Gunn, who organised the killings of Joan and John Stirland.
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Gunn, 44, who is serving a minimum 35 years for conspiracy to murder, had been challenging this – but his risk status was upheld by the Government just weeks ago.

He was transferred to the top- security Belmarsh jail in London last year, following concerns from prison officers about him planning a "daring and viable" escape from HMP Long Lartin prison in Worcestershire.

But now it has been revealed that the prison authorities think Gunn has been continuing his plotting over the past five months in his new jail.

Newly released documents say that intelligence gathered since March of this year includes Gunn sending a letter to another prisoner saying audio-visual security equipment was down – and that it would be an ideal time to escape.

He also talked in code on the telephone and tried to make a three-way telephone call. In addition, a close associate and visitor had a pilot's licence and access to an aircraft.

The documents reveal how two visitors questioned staff about who was on the Special Secure Unit, and appeared to check the security on the unit.

Other visitors had twice claimed to have lost their passes – one of which was never recovered.

Gunn used the mail system to leak details about an internal escort to the press and he also tried to "ostracise, dictate to or manipulate members of staff".

Gunn, of Rise Park in Nottingham, was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 35 years in 2006 for conspiring to murder the Stirlands at their home in Trusthorpe, near Mablethorpe.

He blamed Mrs Stirland's son, Michael O'Brien, for indirectly causing the death of his nephew Jamie.

Earlier this year Gunn sought a judicial review in relation to his classification as an "exceptional" escape risk, saying his status had not been reviewed in September last year, as it should have been, and when it was finally reviewed in December, no adequate reasons were given for keeping him at that level.

A fresh claim was submitted by his lawyers on July 1, following another review of his status on April 4, which kept him at the same level. Also on July 1, another three-monthly review took place, which again upheld his "exceptional" risk status.

This review by the Government's Director of High Security said that the decision was based on "recent intelligence gathered previously and since his last review in March 2011 that an escape attempt is being planned".

Finally, on July 4, court documents opposing Gunn's claim were filed on behalf of the Rushcliffe MP Ken Clarke, the Secretary of State for Justice.

The grounds for opposing the claim say Gunn "played the primary role" in the murders of John and Joan Stirland, is "a longstanding figurehead in a group of very dangerous organised criminals", and is "one of the most dangerous prisoners currently in the prison system"

Setting out the Secretary of State's position, Kate Grange said: "The consequences of an escape of a prisoner such as the claimant [Gunn] could be catastrophic."

Being classed as an exceptional escape risk means he is subject to a more strict regime in prison, which his barrister Jason Elliott has described as "the most oppressive and intrusive living conditions within Her Majesty's Prison Service".

Being held in the Special Secure Unit means he is kept away from other prisoners.

His visits, both social and legal, are held in a room with glass between him and the visitor and they communicate via telephone handsets.

Visitors, as well as staff, are also subject to an enhanced search when entering the Special Secure Unit.

Following the most recent review of his escape status, Gunn was provided with further details of the intelligence which made it necessary for his classification to be maintained. However, detailed information has been withheld in the public interest.

Setting out the Secretary of State's position, barrister Ms Grange said that secret intelligence may be the only way in which escape plans can be detected and foiled – and it is in the public interest for a secret system of intelligence gathering to exist. For that system to be effective, secret sources of intelligence must be properly protected.

Ms Grange said: "The inevitable consequence is that, in some cases, the individual will not know the full reasons for a negative escape classification decision. However, any such restriction is fully justified by the importance of protecting the public."

She asked for the application for judicial review to be dismissed, stating: "Given the factual background in this case, it is clear that the decision is not irrational and in those circumstances there is no justification for the court probing further into the underlying evidence, underpinning the intelligence case."

Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service have confirmed that the judicial review claim has now been closed by consent of Gunn and his legal team.

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