Northern Ireland

Rape accused released 'in error' by Prison Service

Devidas Paliutis
Image caption Devidas Paliutis is originally from Lithuania

An international hunt is continuing for a prisoner accused of rape who was released in "error" by the Northern Ireland Prison Service.

The PSNI are liaising with Interpol in the hunt for Devidas Paliutis (27) who appeared at Newry Magistrates Court via a video link from Maghaberry Prison on Wednesday.

The Prison Service was told by the court that the holding charges had been withdrawn but did not realise he had been returned for trial to the Crown Court on other charges.

Devidas Paliutis, who is originally from Lithuania, is also charged with unlawful and injurious imprisonment and theft.

After his appearance via video link, the Prison Service was advised that the holding charges were withdrawn from the Magistrates Court.

However they failed to act on the notification that other charges had been substituted, for which he was returned for trial to the Crown Court, and erroneously released Mr Paliutis.

The PSNI and police in the irish Republic are now working with Interpol in the hunt for Paliutus.

The director general of the Prison Service Robin Masfield has apologised for the error and the Justice Minister David Ford has called for a fully inquiry into the circumstances which led to his release.

The PSNI and police in the Irish Republic are now working with Interpol in the hunt for Paliutus.

Apology

The director-general of the Prison Service, Sir Robin Masefield, confirmed the "mistake" to release Mr Paliutis had been made at Maghaberry Prison in County Antrim.

He also apologised for the error.

"I am putting my hands up for that and I am apologising on behalf of the service to the public that regrettably we made that error," he added.

"It was a human error, he should not have been released at the time that he was."

The Police Service of Northern Ireland, Irish police and Interpol have been advised and are co-ordinating efforts to have Mr Paliutis returned to custody.

Steps are being taken to safeguard the interests of the victim of the alleged crime.

Justice Minister David Ford has ordered an immediate and full inquiry into the circumstances which led to the prisoner's release.

Mr Ford said he will invite the Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice to review the findings.

"It is clearly an embarrassing incident," he said.

"It does need to be set against the fact that several thousand similar cases are heard whether by video link or in courts every year.

"But any one case is clearly worrying that is why I have taken such serious action."

More on this story