Christmas ‘holiday’ snub led Burnley career criminal to abscond from open prison

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A CAREER burglar jailed for almost three years for 19 house raids was soon moved to an open prison – and went home, a court heard.

Addict James Rickwood (31), who has almost 80 convictions, had been sent to prison for 32 months, last September. Within less than four months he was being allowed out of Kirkham open prison at weekends. But, when the jail wouldn’t release him for Christmas, he took drugs, failed a test, was refused home leave in January, but went anyway.

Burnley Crown Court heard how Rickwood, said to have been desperate to see his two children, got someone to pick him up from Kirkham, went to see his family and then handed himself in at the police station five days later.

The defendant, of Padiham Road, Burnley, admitted escape on January 6th and was given eight months in custody, consecutive to his current sentence.

Judge Beverly Lunt told him: “Home leave is a privilege, not a right. I find it of grave concern that less than four months after I imposed a sentence of 32 months in prison for 19 house burglaries, you had not only been moved to Kirkham, but were being permitted home leave.”

The judge added Rickwood had taken a “calculated” decision to do what he did and there must be a deterrent sentence to discourage others from abusing the privilege.

Emma Kehoe (prosecuting) told the hearing police received a report Rickwood had escaped from Kirkham. Inquiries were started and a number of days later, he handed himself in at Burnley police station.

The defendant had 78 previous convictions, mostly for offences of dishonesty.

Mr Richard Taylor (defending) said he had “clearly done well” at Preston Prison, as he was moved to Kirkham.

Rickwood had now been moved back to Preston. The solicitor, who said the defendant was studying maths among other things in custody, added: “He has lost any prospect of serving any part of his sentence now in an open prison. He has done wrong in leaving the prison but at least he handed himself in after a short time.”