'Perverted' attack on student sparks early-release row
THE row over the early release of prisoners escalated yesterday when it emerged that a man freed on licence had carried out what a judge described as a "prolonged, persistent and perverted" sex attack on a student.
James Rigden, who had 16 previous convictions and had been placed on the Sex Offenders' Register for life, carried out the attack on the 18-year-old student in Dumfries while out on licence after being convicted in 2002 of having sex with an under-age girl.
Yesterday at the High Court in Edinburgh he was jailed for life with a minimum punishment period of 10 years. Passing sentence, Lord Hardie said it was clear from his criminal record and reports commissioned that a shorter custodial sentence was insufficient for the future protection of the public.
The case brought fresh calls from the Conservatives for a tightening of legislation involving early release of prisoners. The party's home affairs spokeswoman Annabel Goldie said: "Sadly another victim has had to suffer needlessly because of early release.
"This is another sad case to add to the growing list and I can only pray that this serves as a wake-up call to the Executive. The First Minister insists he wants to hear from his Sentencing Commission before he will act but he has had six years to do something. All that is required is the political will to change the law and scrap this discredited scheme."
The Executive-appointed Sentencing Commission is reviewing the entire system of early release and Cathy Jamieson, the justice minister, has said she recognises that "more needs to be done" to improve the way prisoners are reintroduced into society.
In June this year, the Parole Board revealed that 199 long-term prisoners freed on licence had been returned to prison after committing offences or because they were judged too great a risk to society.
Rigden, who was jailed for four years in 2002, committed his latest attack in January this year. The court was told he forced his young victim into degrading sex acts while repeatedly punching and slapping her and threatening to kill her.
The victim told the jury that she was in fear of her life and told him she was pregnant. She only escaped by tricking Rigden into taking her back to her parents' house, ostensibly to collect some items of lingerie.
"I thought 'As long as I get out of here and get to the house, my mum and dad will be there'," she said. During the taxi ride to the house she sent a text message to her mother urging her to wait up for her and adding: "I need you." Her parents met her in the driveway and her father confronted Rigden.
Lord Hardie described it as an "exceptional case" which merited an indeterminate sentence for the public's protection.
Rigden has a string of previous convictions involving 25 offences, some of them for crimes of violence and some for sexual offences.
An Executive spokesman said: "
Ministers have already made clear on several occasions that the current early-release arrangements will change. However, they also recognise that this is a detailed area of law and that it is vital to get it right. One size may not fit all and it may be appropriate to have different regimes for different categories of offenders."
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