10 murders committed by prisoners freed early

TEN people were murdered by offenders released from prison on licence or under supervision orders in Scotland in the last year, new figures show.

Ten murders were committed by prisoners released on licence last year. Picture: TSPL
Ten murders were committed by prisoners released on licence last year. Picture: TSPL
Ten murders were committed by prisoners released on licence last year. Picture: TSPL

A further ten unexplained deaths, seven attempted murders, eight sexual offences, four suicides, three assaults to serious injury, two drug overdoses and one culpable homicide involved people under supervision.

The threat known criminals pose to communities was revealed in the Care Inspectorate’s first annual report on serious incident reviews, which found 45 offenders released on licence or under supervision were involved in serious incidents in 2012-13.

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The inspectorate warned this could be just the tip of the iceberg, as it believes some councils are under-reporting or not reporting at all.

Critics called the figures “shocking” and urged the Scottish Government to rethink its support for community punishment over prison in some cases.

In particular, the Scottish Government has failed to scrap automatic early release, despite having pledged to do so in 2007 and 2011. Under the current arrangement, many of the most serious offenders – those serving more than four years, but not life – are automatically released on licence after three-quarters of their term.

The failure to end automatic early release has been criticised by police, victims groups and the Scottish Conservatives.

John Lamont MSP, Scottish Conservative chief whip, said: “It is shocking that offenders are able to commit any crimes in our communities while under supervision, let alone murders.

“Even more worryingly, the report suggests there is an under-reporting of serious incidents in some councils, meaning the number of cases like these is likely to be higher than thought.

“If the Scottish Government wasn’t hell-bent on punishing more and more serious offenders in our communities rather than locking them up, perhaps councils would be better able to supervise those on licence.”

Scottish Labour justice spokesman Graeme Pearson added: “The figures involved may represent a small number in terms of the people on any type of licence, but the failures identified will have had a devastating impact on the law-abiding families affected.”

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It is the first time the Care Inspectorate has gathered these figures, so it is difficult to know whether the situation is getting worse, but it has highlighted several areas in need of improving.

In its conclusion, the report said: “As we have received notifications from only 17 of the 32 local authorities, and small numbers from some areas, we remain unconvinced that all local authority areas are reporting accurately or, indeed, reporting at all.

“This indicates 15 local authorities – just under half – have had no serious incidents. We accept that in some areas this may be the case, but we strongly recommend that other areas ensure they notify us.”

Of the councils that did report serious incidents, North Lanarkshire had 11, Glasgow had seven, Renfrewshire and South Lanarkshire had four each, and East Ayrshire had three. Edinburgh and Aberdeen had one each.

Council social workers supervise 23,000 offenders a year who have been released on licence or are under supervision. The licences can include a range of measures, such as home curfews and a ban on going near certain people or places.

Alison McInnes MSP, Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokeswoman, said: “Any under-reporting can only hinder potential advances in rehabilitation.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Decisions about parole are for the independent parole board. It is of course extremely regrettable when a serious incident happens while an offender is on licence and we expect that all parties involved learn lessons.”

However, the umbrella group Cosla defended councils. A spokesman said: “Local authorities supervise thousands of offenders on license and serious incidents are fortunately low.”