ONE of Scotland’s most notorious convicted killers is to seek freedom after winning his legal bid to be transferred from The State Hospital at Carstairs after more than 45 years.
• Doctors say Reid has personality and not mental disorder
• Reid was locked up without limit of time in Carstairs
Alexander Reid, one of the longest serving inmates at the facility, has claimed victory in his long-standing capaign to be transferred after a hearing before appeal judges.
The decision now opens the way for the 62-year-old to seek parole as a member of the prison population, having long ago completed the 10 year minimum for a life sentence.
However, the Scottish Conservatives warned that there was “no question” that people would be concerned about the chance of such a “dangerous criminal” being freed, and said public safety must be an “absolute priority.”
Reid was a teenager when he was sent to Carstairs “without limit of time” in 1967 after he admitted killing Angela McCabe. The 26-year-old was stabbed to death as her four-week-old daughter lay sleeping upstairs at her home in Bishopbriggs, north of Glasgow.
Reid was accused of murder, but at the High Court in Edinburgh, his guilty plea to a reduced charge of culpable homicide on the grounds of diminished responsibility was accepted.
At the time of his conviction, he was diagnosed on the basis of psychiatric evidence as suffering from a “mental disorder” which would today be classed as a learning disability, but the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh heard that psychiatrists now labelled Reid’s problem as an untreatable dissocial personality disorder.
His legal team successfully argued that the change in diagnosis amounted to “new evidence,” quashing the 1967 decision and imposing a life sentence in its place.
Yesterday’s hearing was held before Lady Paton, Lord Bonomy, Lord Emslie, Lord Brodie and Lady Dorrian. Lady Paton, giving the judges’ ruling, said that Reid’s crime was “horrific and appalling.”
Reid has always claimed the death was a robbery which went wrong, and the appeal was the latest attempt by his legal team to challenge his conviction. Five years ago, the 1967 ruling by Lord Walker was challenged at the Court of Criminal appeal, but he lost.
In 2001, meanwhile, Reid and two other convicted killers lost their legal action to overturn the Scottish Parliament’s first piece of legislation, having claimed it breached their human rights.
At the most recent hearing, defence QC Simon Collins claimed that Reid’s performance in IQ tests in the mid-1970s were “new evidence,” and cast doubt on the conclusion that Reid was “mentally deficient.”
Advocate depute Andrew Brown QC said the Crown was not opposed to Reid’s transfer to prison, as long as he remained locked up.
Dr Natasha Billcliff, responsible for Reid’s care in The State Hospital, told the appeal judges that he was “disruptive,” needed more time and attention than any other patient, and spurned attempts at therapies. Nothing the hospital could do was likely to improve his condition, she explained.
Scottish Conservative chief whip John Lamont said: “It will now be for the parole board to make the correct decision on this matter. The safety of the public must be an absolute priority in this process.
“There is no question that members of the public will be concerned about the possibility of such a dangerous criminal being set free.”
David Sinclair, head of communications at Victim Support Scotland, said: “Parole boards take into account all cirumstances when considering the release of a felon. Being granted the right to seek parole is not the same as getting parole.”