Prisoner enjoys festive freedom after he's released in error by Durham Jail

Durham Jail.

Durham Jail.

A remand prisoner has got festive freedom after he was released by mistake from Durham Jail.

Richard Redhead was unexpectedly freed from HMP Durham, where he was being held before facing trial for an alleged attempted robbery.

It is unclear whether Redhead realised his release was a mistake - or where he went afterwards.

The 28-year-old had been due to appear at Newcastle Crown Court yesterday for a pre-trial review, before the hearing starts in January.

But his lawyer David Comb told the court: "It was anticipated he was still in custody at Durham Prison. We believe he has been released by the prison."

Mr Comb told the court the exact circumstances surrounding Redhead's freedom remain unclear.

Prosecutor Michael Bunch said Redhead had been remanded in custody at a previous hearing and his status was expected to remain unchanged until the trial.

Mr Bunch said: "The remand will carry on running. If police track him down he will simply be put back into Durham Prison.

"He is not the subject of a warrant to bring him before a court. He is remanded in custody, he would go straight to jail."

The court heard Redhead's last known address was in Gateshead, but it is unclear where he would go to live after his release.

Miss Recorder Caroline Wigin did not issue a warrant for Redhead's arrest, as it was unclear if he was aware of the pre-trial hearing and that he was expected to attend.

The prison authorities have notified the police.

The judge said: "The defendant has been released by the prison. He is not on bail in relation to this matter and no current address is known.

"The case is to remain listed as a trial on January 16."

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: "These incidents are rare and the vast majority are returned to custody very quickly. "