Tag bun­gle fury as 26 con­victs go on the run

Loop­hole re­vealed af­ter mur­der of dad Craig

Sunday Mail (UK) - - News - John Fer­gu­son Po­lit­i­cal Edi­tor

Dozens of dan­ger­ous con­victs have gone on the run af­ter be­ing freed on tags to Eng­land – where Scot­tish po­lice can’t ar­rest them.

The shock­ing loop­hole has been re­vealed in an off icial prison watch­dog re­port, which rec­om­mended sus­pend­ing the prac­tice un­til com­mu­ni­ca­tion with au­thor­i­ties south of the Bor­der im­proved.

In June last year, a to­tal of 26 Scot­tish pris­on­ers were be­lieved to be “un­law­fully at large” in Eng­land – al­most half of the 54 to­tal who had ab­sconded af­ter be­ing lib­er­ated on Home De­ten­tion Cur­few (HDC) tags.

The is­sue has come to light in the wake of pub­lic out­rage at the mur­der of dad- of-three Craig McClel­land in Pais­ley.

He was knifed to death by James Wright, 25, who had de­stroyed a tag and re­mained free for six months be­fore car­ry­ing out the ran­dom at­tack.

An HM In­spec­torate of Pris­ons for Scot­land (HMIPS) re­view or­dered af­ter the mur­der in July last year, said: “Se­ri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion should be given to tem­porar­ily sus­pend­ing HDC re­leases outwith Scot­land un­til a more rig­or­ous com­mu­ni­ca­tion pro­to­col is de­vel­oped be­tween the Scot­tish Prison Ser­vice (SPS), Po­lice Scot­land and the English au­thor­i­ties in re­la­tion to the mon­i­tor­ing and li­cence re­vo­ca­tion process.”

The SPS were forced to carry out an over­haul of their pro­ce­dures.

But rather than end­ing the prac­tice of re­leas­ing pris­on­ers to ad­dresses in Eng­land, they have in­stead iden­ti­fied con­tacts in Eng­land and Wales’ 43 po­lice forces.

The hope is that English off icers will be able to track down of­fend­ers for them in ar­eas where Po­lice Scot­land have no ju­ris­dic­tion.

An SPS re­sponse to the HMIPS rec­om­men­da­tion added that in­for­ma­tion would be placed on the Na­tional Po­lice Com­puter and Po­lice Scot­land no­ti­fied of the breach of li­cence.

Moira Ramage, a for­mer district procu­ra­tor fis­cal and Pa­role Board for Scot­land mem­ber, bel ieves Scot­tish pris­on­ers shouldn’t be al­lowed to give ad­dresses out­side the coun­try for home de­ten­tion. She said: “A pris­oner should have to pro­vide an ad­dress in Scot­land be­fore be­ing con­sid­ered for a tag.

“They should have to re­main in an area where Scot­tish po­lice can ar­rest them if nec­es­sary.” Neil Bibby MSP added: “Any loop­holes in the Home De­ten­tion Cur­few scheme that could put the pub­lic at risk must be closed and closed quickly.

“Af­ter the tragic mur­der of Craig McClel­land, con­fi­dence in HDCs has been badly shaken and the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to act quickly and re­as­sure the pub­lic.”

Scot­tish Con­ser­va­tive jus­tice spokesman Liam Kerr said: “It shouldn’t be dif­fi­cult to sort this out, par­tic­u­larly when pub­lic safety on both sides of the Bor­der is con­cerned.

“Clearly po­lice here and in Eng­land need to get their heads to­gether to come up with a plan.”

Of the 26 pris­on­ers un­law­fully at large in Eng­land on June 18, 11 were re­turned to cus­tody be­fore the HMIPS re­port was pub­lished in Oc­to­ber.

Notes in the f inal draf t pro­vided by the SPS claimed in­quiries on five were pend­ing, while three re­mained on the run.

A small num­ber were back in cus­tody over sep­a­rate mat­ters.

An SPS spokesman said: “Po­lice Scot­land don’t have ju­ris­dic­tion in Eng­land but English forces do and they can act on the in­for­ma­tion that is forth­com­ing via the Pol ice Na­tional Com­puter, as in­deed they have in the past.

“The HMIPS rec­om­men­da­tion was that a more rig­or­ous com­mu­ni­ca­tion pro­to­col be put in place and we have done that. The de­tails are in the re­port.”

He added that, over the last 13 months, 42 of 1349 pris­on­ers re­leased on home de­ten­tion had been al­lowed to go to Eng­land and that, in that pe­riod, eight who had ab­sconded had been re­turned to cus­tody.

A Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment spokesman said : “Pol ice Scot­land and the SPS have worked to­gether to es­tab­lish a sin­gle point of con­tact in all 43 po­lice forces in Eng­land and Wales, with clear pro­cesses for alert­ing the rel­e­vant force and Na­tional Pro­ba­tion Ser­vice in the event of breach.”

LEGGING IT Some tagged pris­on­ers have ab­sconded to Eng­land. Far left, Craig McClel­land was killed by a thug who de­stroyed his tag

FREED TO KILL Wright. Right, Sun­day Mail story

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