Report on criminal release blunder due next week

An investigation into how a violent criminal was accidentally freed from jail is due to be completed next week, said the Department for Justice.

Michael Lawrence Smith. The public have been warned not to approach him.

Michael Lawrence Smith, 38 and of Ardmonagh Gardens in west Belfast is on remand accused of the gun murder of Stephen Carson in south Belfast in February 2016.

The Prison Service said that two senior members of staff are investigating the events regarding his release, and that they “will report to the head of the service next week” (although it did not specify when).

The department added that it can say little more until then.

Police have said the assignment to find him is being led by Detective Superintendent Kevin Geddes, and that An Garda Siochana have also been contacted about his disappearance – although no European Arrest Warrant for Smith is in force at time of writing.

Remarkably, Smith had been denied bail by a judge just one day before Magahaberry prison released him by mistake.

DUP justice spokesman at Westminster Gavin Robinson described the blunder as “catastrophic”.