British paedophile Bill Paden at Cavan court

MORE than 300 criminals from abroad fled to Ireland last year in the hope of avoiding prosecution and jail in their home countries.

The Department of Justice has confirmed it received 326 European arrest warrants last year, including more than a dozen concerning people suspected of murder and rape.

More than half of the warrants came from Poland, from where 177 suspected criminals fled to Ireland in 2009.

In all, 15 people were sought to face charges of either murder or grievous bodily harm, figures from the department have shown.

Another 12 extradition warrants related to "sexual offences including rape and sexual abuse of children", it has emerged.

A total of 30 people wanted for drugs offences, 39 suspected fraudsters and 12 people involved in organised crime and robbery were also sought.

After Poles, Lithuanians made up the next largest group of people sought under warrants, with 39 citizens being pursued.

Attempts were also made to extradite 38 people from the United Kingdom, 19 from the Czech Republic, 13 from Romania and 12 from Latvia.

Of the 15 wanted for "murder, attempted murder [and/or] threat to murder", eight of them were from the UK. Another four were from Lithuania, with one suspect each from Latvia, Poland and France also being searched for.

For sexual offences, 10 of the 13 sought last year were from the UK, with two more from Poland and one from Latvia.

The greatest number of offences (111) came under the category of "robbery, assault, theft [and] damage to property".