Four prisoners released from jail with electronic tag 'unlawfully at large'

30 May 2019, 19:00

An electronic tag

Four offenders are currently "unlawfully at large" after being released from prison with an electronic tag.

Meanwhile one criminal was at large for a total of 105 days, before they returned to prison by themselves.

The figures were released in a follow-up report on the use of home detention curfews (HDCs) in the wake of the murder of father-of-three Craig McClelland, from Paisley.

He was stabbed to death in July 2017 by James Wright, who was at the time "unlawfully at large" after being released with a tag and curfew.

A total of 112 prisoners were released from jail between November 1 2018 and March 29 this year, the HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) revealed.

In the wake of Mr McClelland's murder tougher restrictions were brought in on the use of curfews, with the Scottish Government introducing a presumption against their use for violent offenders and those convicted of knife crimes.

In its 2018 report, HMICS noted there were approximately 300 criminals out on home detention curfew at any given time.

However this report said that total had "reduced dramatically and now sits at around 60".

On March 29 this year there were 62 people in the community on home detention curfew, HMICS said.

A total of 29 offenders were recalled to jail over the five month period, with some arrested for breaching their curfew while others were arrested for separate crimes.

The report added: "At the time of writing (May 2019) there are four individuals unlawfully at large from a Scottish prison after breaching their Home Detention Curfew licence conditions."

With both HMICS and HM Inspectorate of Prisons in Scotland making a series of recommendations in the wake of Mr McClelland's murder, the report said "good progress" had been made on these.

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said that the use of HDCs was "an important part of the justice system, preparing prisoners for release and enabling monitored reintegration, with most observing their curfew conditions.".

He added: "I welcome the findings of these reports which show real and demonstrable progress in improving the management of prisoners serving the end of their custodial sentence in the community. In particular, Police Scotland and the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) have worked hard to improve information sharing between justice agencies and to ensure all staff involved in HDC decisions are fully trained and supported.

"The Scottish Government is committed to tightening the law further to protect the public. That is why we are legislating to give police new powers of entry and search to apprehend a person unlawfully at large from HDC or temporary release.

"We will continue to work with Police Scotland and SPS to ensure the HDC regime is operating as effectively as possible and that it remains an effective tool in providing structured monitoring on prison release."

Mr Yousaf stated: "My thoughts remain with the family and friends of Craig McClelland, whose tragic murder led to last year's review of HDC."

Chief Superintendent Garry McEwan of Police Scotland said: "Our sympathies very much remain with the family and friends of Craig McClelland at this time.

"We welcome this largely positive review by HMICS which recognises the considerable work undertaken by Police Scotland to ensure robust governance of the home detention curfew system.

"We are committed, along with our partners, to ensuring the final four recommendations are implemented fully."