Electronic tag crackdown after murder in Paisley

25 October 2018, 06:27 | Updated: 25 October 2018, 16:53

Craig McClelland

Offenders convicted of crimes involving violence or knives will generally no longer be able to serve part of their sentence at home on an electronic tag curfew.

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf announced the change in a statement at Holyrood on reviews of the curfew commissioned following 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" while on home detention curfew.

In addition to the presumption against home detention curfews for offenders convicted of violent or knife crimes, the Government will also attempt to bring in new legislation to make remaining unlawfully at large a specific offence, giving police powers of arrest and forced entry which they currently do not have for situations like these.

Mr Yousaf paid tribute to Mr McClelland's family, saying: "It is through their tenacity and tireless campaigning of behalf of Craig that we have got to this point.

"I want to thank them sincerely for their efforts as their campaigning means we will have a stronger, more robust home detention curfew regime."

Mr Yousaf said it is "nonsense" to say Mr McClelland was at the wrong place at the wrong time.

He said: "James Wright was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Craig had every right to go from his house to his mother's house and expect to get there safely."

He said the Scottish Government, Scottish Prison Service and Police Scotland all accept all 37 recommendations made by HM Inspectorate of Prisons in Scotland (HMIPS) and HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) in their reviews.

He said these made clear "improvements are needed", particularly regarding information sharing between the police and prison service and more robust assessment.

The reviews found the prison service correctly followed guidance in place regarding the curfews during Wright's release from prison and the police delivered briefings and updated their systems appropriately once his order for recall was issued.

However, HMICS found officers were "unable to demonstrate that a professional level of inquiry was carried out" once Wright had breached his curfew "due to non-recording of activity undertaken to trace the offender".

The watchdog also found that as of June 29 2018, 44 offenders released from Scottish prisons on the curfews were recorded by the service as "unlawfully at large", and more than half, 24, had been so for more than four years.

The vast majority, 38, were not recorded as unlawfully at large on police systems.

Scottish Conservative justice spokesman Liam Kerr said it "beggars belief" information on these offenders was not being shared between the services.

Labour's Daniel Johnson said Mr McClelland's murder "shouldn't have been possible".

He added: "My concern is the multiple failings detailed point to the much larger and widespread issues within the agencies themselves.

"They point to competence and capacity issues at these agencies, not just how they work together."

Mr Yousaf said he plans a six-month review of the recommendations to address competency and capacity concerns.

HMICS's Gill Imery offered condolences to Mr McClelland's family and said: "Effective data exchange between the two organisations is fundamental to the successful management of offenders.

"The processes around home detention curfew, revocations and cancellation of revocation notices require to be significantly improved."