Rugby man walked out of jail after being threatened for refusing to help get contraband into the prison

The Leamington Justice Centre, where Warwick Crown Court sits.
The Leamington Justice Centre, where Warwick Crown Court sits.

A Rugby man who walked out of prison because he was under threat from other inmates after he refused to smuggle in phones and drugs for them has had his sentenced increased.

Convicted burglar John Robinson pleaded guilty at Warwick Crown Court to escaping from lawful custody at HMP Hewell near Redditch.

But Robinson (45) of Bath Street, Rugby, was jailed for just two months, consecutive to the 28 months he is already serving, after the judge heard what was behind his escape.

Prosecutor Mark Williams said Robinson had 39 previous convictions for 120 offences, and had received his latest sentence at the crown court in October last year for burglary.

He was serving his time at HMP Hewell, but absconded on January 25 sometime between returning from the prison farm at 5.30pm and evening roll-call two hours later.

Robinson was circulated as wanted, and was arrested five days later after police officers who knew him saw him near his family’s home in Bath Street.

He told them he had been under pressure to take parcels which were to be left at the farm into the prison, and threatened about what would happen if he refused.

He said he had been assaulted previously for refusing to carry a parcel, and that as a result of making a complaint about that had ended up ‘in solitary.’

“We can confirm he was assaulted in prison, but he didn’t want to make a complaint, and it was at his request that he went into solitary,” said Mr Williams.

But he added: “There is intelligence that at the time he was under threat, but we don’t accept the grounds for that threat were that he had been asked to take in a parcel.”

Andrew Tucker, defending, said Robinson had broken a long-term heroin addiction, but ‘fell into the wrong crowd again’ and committed the offence which had led to him being jailed.

“In the summer of last year, he was approached by a man who asked him to take a package from the laundry, where he was working, into the closed part of the prison.

“He looked in the package and saw phones and the drug spice, and refused – and he was promptly attacked.

“As a result, at his own request mainly, he remained in his own cell, and prison officers brought his meals to him.

“He was then transferred to the open part of Hewell and worked there on the farm for another few weeks, but in the week he absconded, on his return from the farm he was approached by two men who sat either side of him.”

They handed him a phone, and the person on the other end was the prisoner who had previously attacked him.

He was ordered to bring in a package that would be dropped at the farm that Thursday, and was told the man’s henchmen would f*** him up if he refused, so he pretended he would comply.

“On the Thursday he made no attempt to look for the package, but he had contacted the governor to ask for it to be ensured that on his way back to the block he would be searched.

“Unfortunately when he came back there was no officer on duty to stop him and, fearful of what would happen, he went to the back of the block where there’s a low fence, and stepped over it.”

He made his way to the nearby canal and followed it into Birmingham and then another canal to Coventry and a third to get back to Rugby where he was picked up and is now back living in his cell.

Of the possibility of Robinson, who has a release date in October, serving the rest of his time in another jail, Mr Tucker said: “He says it’s impractical. The man has a phone and could track him down and arrange for him to be attacked in any other prison he went to.”

Jailing Robinson for two months consecutive to his current sentence, Judge Sylvia de Bertodano pointed out that will still lead to his release before Christmas.

She told him: “You found yourself in a very unenviable situation. You were at large for five days, and you spent most of it walking to get back to your family in Rugby.

“No-one’s going to be helped by you staying in prison any longer than necessary, so I’m going to make it as short as I can.”