Offender hailed by MacAskill as reformed is jailed

Kenny MacAskill. Picture: Greg Macvean
Kenny MacAskill. Picture: Greg Macvean
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A WOMAN presented as a model rehabilitated offender in a photocall with justice secretary Kenny MacAskill has been jailed for a year after flouting the orders that had kept her out of prison.

Former prostitute Cheryl Ferguson posed with Mr MacAskill in June last year as the minister pledged to end the “vicious circle” of sending repeat offenders back to prison.

Ferguson described Cornton Vale, Scotland’s only women’s prison, as a “holiday camp” as the justice secretary launched a shake-up of how female offenders are dealt with.

But she was jailed yesterday after admitting breaching her community payback order by repeatedly failing to turn up for appointments or carry out unpaid hours of work.

Ferguson was handed the order in March 2012 – three months before her appearance with Mr MacAskill – after she admitted stealing sweets, hair accessories and a children’s craft kit from an Asda store in Dundee.

She further admitted behaving in a threatening and abusive manner toward staff, threatening them with violence, and was told to carry out 150 hours of community service on the order.

However, Ferguson, 29, of Dundee, then went on to carry out two further offences.

On 15 July last year, she stole clothing from a Tesco store and was found in possession of drugs, and on 11 September she stole a bottle of wine from a 
Lidl store.

All of the offences were carried out while she was on bail.

Despite the crimes being committed while she was on a community order, a sheriff still chose not to jail her – and again allowed her to continue on the order. But yesterday the court’s patience ran out after Ferguson admitted breaching the order by repeatedly failing to engage with social workers.

She was jailed for four months on each of the theft charges and four months for the breach of the order, meaning she will serve a total of 12 months in jail.

Ferguson has a history of offending going back a number of years. She has spent time in jail for a variety of crimes, mostly involving theft and drugs.

During one appearance at Dundee Sheriff Court, she admitted approaching a man for the purposes of prostitution.

Speaking last year, Ferguson told reporters: “Cornton Vale is like a holiday camp. I know people who deliberately committed crimes to get put back in there to be with their friends. It had an open-door policy and was an easy ride for most people there – it certainly wasn’t a deterrent.”

She added: “Without the Dundee Project [of rehabilitation], I’d definitely have reoffended and been back inside.

“I have a mentor who helps keep me straight and looks after me. I get help and advice from her whenever I need it.

“I’m living in my own flat and doing voluntary work and my goal is to get my children back.”

A spokesman for Dundee City Council, which runs the women’s project that Ferguson helped front, said the scheme has a positive effect.

He said: “The project has had success in breaking a cycle of repeat offending.

“Given the level of offending this individual had before, there has been a positive impact through the project.”