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Ruth Davidson demands review of home leave for killers

The Scottish Tory leader made the plea after killer Robbie McIntosh was sentenced for an attempted murder of a dogwalker, carried out while on leave.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has called for a review into whether convicted killers should be granted home leave.

The Tory made the plea after the “appalling case” of Robbie McIntosh, a murderer who tried to kill a female dog walker with a dumbbell while on leave from prison, who has now been placed under an order of lifelong restriction.

McIntosh – who was given a life sentence for stabbing a woman who had been walking her dog to death in 2001 – will now have to spend a minimum of five years in prison.

The Parole Board will have to consider if it is safe for him to be freed after that, with the prospect he may never get out of jail.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said if McIntosh was allowed out of prison again, the order meant he would be be “subject to intensive supervision for the rest of his life”.

But Ms Davidson said there should be a review into the system of allowing convicted killers to be granted home leave.

She also revealed in the last year alone some 4,000 prisoners had been granted temporary leave, where they were allowed out of prison but their case had not been considered by the Parole Board.

She pressed Ms Sturgeon on the issue of home release at First Minister’s Questions after McIntosh appeared in court to be sentenced for his attack on Linda McDonald, who he assaulted as she walked her dog through Templeton Woods, Dundee, in August 2017.

Home leave for convicted murderers, where they are free to walk the streets before they even face the parole board should be reviewed, isn’t it that simple? Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson

The Tory leader asked Ms Sturgeon if she agreed “this appalling case raises further questions about our justice system, and why killers who should be in jail are instead allowed to walk free before a parole board has even ruled that they are safe to do so”.

Ms Davidson added: “I don’t think it is unreasonable for the public to expect prisoners to serve their time. When cases like today’s emerge the question from the public is why again?

“Why is a killer let lose to try and kill again? Why is the dice loaded against victims and in favour of criminals again? Why do we only act when another family is left to pick up the pieces of their lives?”

“Home leave for convicted murderers, where they are free to walk the streets before they even face the parole board should be reviewed, isn’t it that simple?”

Ms Sturgeon said the case was “extremely distressing”, adding she could “entirely understand and sympathise with the views of the family”.

But she said: “A rigorous risk assessment is undertaken by the Scottish Prison Service before any offender is granted any form of unescorted leave, that involves psychological assessments, social work reports, and reports on the time they have spend in prison.

“Home leave is also always granted with very strict conditions applied.”

Nicola Sturgeon during First Minister’s Questions (Jane Barlow/PA)

Ms Davidson replied: “I accept this is an extreme case but it does tap into a wider public concern.

“Under current rules prisoners can be allowed out of jail before their official release, it’s called temporary release. That means they can be let out into the community without supervision.

“Through Freedom of Information we have discovered there were over 4,000 cases in the last year alone where, like McIntosh, prisoners had been granted such leave.”

Ms Sturgeon said: “If there are lessons to be learned from this case, and undoubtedly I think there will be, of course those lessons must be applied for the future.”

This could see changes to “tighten the way in which risk assessments are carried out in future”, she added.

But the First Minister defended the principle of permitting prisoners home leave as part of their rehabilitation.

“Of course serious criminals should be locked up, that’s not in doubt,” she said.

“But the bigger challenge for our criminal justice system is how we do rehabilitate prisoners so there is less of a risk of them reoffending.

“These with the greatest of respect to Ruth Davidson are not simple issues, these are actually really complex issues and we have a duty to recognise the complexity with the public.”

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