A SERVING prisoner scaled a jail fence and travelled 200 miles in order to visit his terminally-ill father, a court heard.

Stuart Barnes, 34, was five months away from his expected release date when he broke out of Kirkham prison, Lancashire, and returned to his native Swindon.

Swindon Crown Court heard Barnes, who in 2018 was given more than five years for stabbing another in the town centre, had made repeated requests to be moved to a jail closer to Wiltshire after his father was diagnosed with cancer in April this year.

Prosecutor Ian Fenny said the defendant had been moved to HMP Kirkham, near Preston, earlier this year. Although an open prison, Barnes had been held on a more secure wing.

On October 8, he scaled a fence and was picked up by an individual he had so far refused to name.

He travelled to Swindon, where his parents live, and spent some time visiting his father in hospital before handing himself in to Gablecross police station on October 19.

Appearing before the crown court via video link from HMP Bullingdon, Barnes, formerly of Westcott Place, Swindon, pleaded guilty to escape.

Defending, John Simmons said his client’s father had been diagnosed with cancer in April. After the man had taken a turn for the worse, Barnes made repeated attempts to persuade the prison authorities to let him see his terminally-ill relative or move him to a jail closer to Swindon.

“Unfortunately, it was decided by whoever makes these decisions because his father was not critical they couldn’t allow him to do that so he took matters into his own hands,” the barrister said.

Barnes’ father had died earlier this month, the court heard.

Mr Simmons said: “Even the most ‘hang ‘em high’ person out on the street, if they heard the facts of this case might have at least some sympathy for this defendant if not a great deal of sympathy for him.”

The court was told Barnes had 53 convictions for 101 offences. In 2018, he was sentenced to 64 months’ imprisonment for using a Stanley knife to slash a man outside Debenhams.

Judge Jason Taylor QC sentenced Barnes to four months’ imprisonment, telling him: “I understand when you say that you would do the same again; I’m not going to hold it against you.

“You went to see your father in hospital and shortly after you had you handed yourself in because, to quote you, ‘you had done what needed to be done’.”

The judge added of the defendant’s reasons for breaking out of custody: “Whilst this court cannot condone them, it does not mean it cannot understand them.”

The four month sentence would be served after his existing 64 month jail term.