Prison service defends release of murderer who struck again
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