A PRISONER jailed for wounding escaped from an open prison in Worcestershire and was at large for over three months.

Sam Branigan was spared another jail sentence at Worcester Crown Court despite walking out of HMP Hewell.

He was near the end of his sentence when he 'panicked' because he knew there was contraband in his cell and would lose his open prison privileges, the court heard.

The 28-year-old dad admitted escaping lawful custody when he appeared before a judge on Monday.

Branigan escaped the prison on October 10 last year, failing to attend for work where he was due to complete a plumbing job.

At the time he was serving an eight year prison sentence for two offences of wounding with intent, imposed on September 21, 2015 at Worcester Crown Court.

He had been due for conditional release on December 29, 2018.

He handed himself in at the prison gatehouse more than three months after his escape.

Michael Conry, prosecuting, said Branigan had been aware that a search of his cell would take place and that there was a mobile phone on his bed.

He said: "As a result of that he absconded from prison. He was at large for three months and 21 days."

Mr Conry said of Branigan's decision to hand himself in: "He said he was sick of looking over his shoulder."

Mr Conry said Branigan made full admissions, saying he was anxious about being returned to a closed prison environment.

Although Branigan said the mobile phone was not his he knew as it was in his cell he was responsible for it.

"He panicked and ran over the fields" said Mr Conry.

Olivia Whitworth, defending, asked that her client be given full credit for his early guilty plea - a discount of 33 per cent in the length of any custodial sentence imposed.

Miss Whitworth said he had acknowledged this was 'a stupid and impulsive choice which has had serious ramifications'.

"He's not been in trouble since and is in close contact with his offender manager" she said.

She also said her client had been medicated for PTSD.

Judge Nicholas Cole said Branigan had been trusted by being placed in the open part of HMP Hewell.

Judge Cole said by his actions Branigan had caused disruption to the prison regime at a cost to the public.

However, he accepted that Branigan had panicked, that it was not a sophisticated escape involving damage to property, that he surrendered himself and that he had pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity.

The judge decided not to impose a suspended sentence as Branigan remains on licence for the original offence until September 2023 and can be recalled on this sentence if he commits any further offences.

Instead he made a two year community order to include the Thinking Skills programme (19 sessions) and 40 rehabilitation activity requirement days.

Branigan of Salop Road, Oldbury, must complete 100 hours of unpaid work and was placed on an electronically monitored curfew for two months between 9pm and 6am.

"This is by no means a let off" said the judge.