Prison ser­vice de­fends re­lease of mur­derer who struck again

Sunday Herald - - 29.10.17 CRIME - BY PETER SWIN­DON

THE prison ser­vice has de­fended a de­ci­sion to grant home leave to a con­victed mur­derer who tried to kill again amid ac­cu­sa­tions from a vic­tims’ sup­port group that “some­thing went badly wrong” with a risk as­sess­ment.

In a bru­tal and mo­tive­less at­tack, Rob­bie McIn­tosh, 31, who was on home leave from jail, re­peat­edly struck Dundee dog walker Linda McDon­ald, 52, with a dumbbell – 16 years and five days after he mur­dered 34-year-old Anne Ni­coll in a sim­i­larly fren­zied at­tack with a knife as she walked her dog in the same city.

The Scot­tish Prison Ser­vice (SPS) in­sisted the at­tack which left McDon­ald with two skull frac­tures could not have been pre­dicted, but Vic­tim Sup- port Scot­land has urged a re­view of pro­ce­dures which cleared McIn­tosh to be on leave from Cas­tle Huntly open prison to com­mit the at­tack.

Last week, the 31-year-old ad­mit­ted blud­geon­ing McDon­ald with a dumbbell in wood­land on Au­gust 7 be­fore he was dis­turbed by passers-by who heard scream­ing. The at­tack left the vic­tim with per­ma­nent scars and she has been un­able to re­turn to work.

When he was 15, McIn­tosh stabbed Ni­coll 29 times on a hill over­look­ing Dundee known as the Law. Sen­tenc­ing him to life im­pris­on­ment in 2002, Lord Bon­omy said the vic­tim has been “butchered”. Ni­coll’s voice box was sliced in the at­tack mean­ing she could not cry for help.

When it emerged last year that McIn­tosh was reg­u­larly out on leave the late Con­ser­va­tive MSP Alex John­stone said it was “clearly far too soon to have some­one like this out in pub­lic”. An SPS spokes­woman re­sponded by say­ing “rig­or­ous risk as­sess­ments” were car­ried out.

Those pro­ce­dures have now been ques­tioned by the di­rec­tor of op­er­a­tions at Vic­tim Sup­port Scot­land, Alan McCloskey, who said: “We do ac­knowl­edge and are led to un­der­stand ro­bust risk as­sess­ments are car­ried out but clearly it’s gone badly wrong and the au­thor­i­ties need to look at what hap­pened, what went wrong and why mat­ters es­ca­lated.”

McCloskey said he would “flag” his con­cerns to the SPS at a meet­ing. “This will be a sub­ject of dis­cus­sion,” he added.

The SPS was also crit­i­cised by McDon­ald’s hus­band Matthew after McIn­tosh ad­mit­ted at­tempt­ing to mur­der the mother of two. He said: “Given his past con­vic­tion for a bru­tal mur­der I can’t be­lieve the Scot­tish Prison Ser­vice deemed that this sick in­di­vid­ual, who at­tempted to mur­der my wife, was al­lowed to be in the pub­lic do­main.

“The fact that they did raises se­ri­ous ques­tions about the cri­te­ria fol­lowed by the ap­pro­pri­ate au­thor­i­ties, and if there had been strict mon­i­tor­ing, su­per­vi­sion and tag­ging in place we wouldn’t be go­ing through this hell.

“To en­sure no other fam­ily has to en­dure what we are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the Scot­tish Prison Ser­vice and the Pa­role Board should, as a pri­or­ity, ex­am­ine their re­lease cri­te­ria and as­sess­ment sys­tems. That is the least we would ex­pect.”

A spokesman for the SPS said: “What­ever I say will not mit­i­gate the ter­ri­ble thing that hap­pened, and the ter­ri­ble harm done, but peo­ple are re­spon­si­ble for their own ac­tions. What we do is help in­di­vid­u­als to trans­form them­selves and mit­i­gate the risk. We take that re­spon­si­bil­ity very se­ri­ously and most of the time peo­ple re­spond well to the trust shown in them.”

The spokesman said the “fail­ure rate” of its risk as­sess­ments is “sig­nif­i­cantly less than one per cent” and each prisoner has re­stric­tions when on leave.

He added: “We don’t have a sheep dip ap­proach so, of course, we con­sider very care­fully con­cerns raised but we do have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to pre­pare peo­ple as best we can. The chal­lenge we face is peo­ple of­ten have a col­lec­tive un­con­scious­ness about the fact peo­ple in prison come out of prison. We are tasked with man­ag­ing peo­ple back out as safely as pos­si­bly can be achieved.

“Hu­man be­ings some­times act in ways we can’t pos­si­bly pre­dict. If we could pre­dict [hu­man be­hav­iour] there would be no crime in so­ci­ety.”

Rob­bie McIn­tosh struck dog walker Linda McDon­ald with a dumbbell

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