Scotland’s justice system has been accused of “letting communities down” after it emerged that a man murdered a father-of-three while illegally at large for five months.
A High Court judge said “questions will be asked” as he sentenced Jamie Wright to life yesterday with a minimum of 20 years in jail.
Wright carried out the attack on 31-year-old Craig McClelland after the revocation of his release from prison on “home detention”.
Opposition parties at Holyrood are now demanding answers over the length of time Wright was allowed to remain at liberty, almost six months, during which time he committed the attack.
Police Scotland last night confirmed the service was notified that Wright, who had previous convictions for knife crimes, had breached the terms of his home release months beforehand.
Wright, 25, from Paisley was released on home detention curfew on 13 February last year, involving the use of an electronic tag.
But judge Lord Matthews told the High Court in Livingston that this was revoked 11 days later.
The judge said: “You remained unlawfully at large for nearly six months, during which time you committed this awful offence. I have no doubt that questions will be asked about that but I am afraid I have no answers.”
During Wright’s trial, a jury at the High Court in Glasgow heard that he stabbed Mr McClelland twice, seconds after stopping him in the street and asking him for a light in Foxbar, Paisley.
But the case has caused an immediate political backlash with concerns over the number of criminals who are now free after having broken curfews.
Tory justice spokesman Liam Kerr said: “The SNP’s drive to empty prisons is letting dangerous offenders off the hook and, so long as this continues, more incidents like this will occur.
“That attitude sets a tone for the rest of the justice system, and it’s letting people and communities down.”
Labour justice spokesman Daniel Johnson said when curfews are broken the authorities must “trace and return” that person to custody.
He said: “It is important that the public now receive answers as to how many people are currently out while having broken their curfews, and for how long.”
Liberal Democrat Liam McArthur branded the attack “barbaric”.
He added: “Both the victim’s family and the public, whom he was allowed to walk among, deserve to know the grounds on which James Wright was released, and why he was not tracked down and returned to prison when he broke the rules. Was there a warrant out for his arrest?”
A Scottish Government spokesman said home detention curfew is an “established part” of the process of preparing people for full release back into the community.
He added: “If a prisoner released on an HDC licence breaches any of the licence conditions, he or she may be recalled to custody by the SPS based on evidence of a breach supplied by the electronic monitoring company, the criminal justice social worker or the police.”
Mr McClelland had been “sailing through university and had everything to live for”, the court was told.
The judge added: “On 23 July 2017 he left his partner and children to visit his brother to play the Xbox.
“He was never to reach his destination or to return home because he was brutally stabbed in the street for no reason brought out in the evidence other than blood lust.
“Sometimes in this court the awful realities with which we deal become sanitised when reduced to mere words.
“In this case, however, the words in one of the victim impact statements which I read may serve to some extent to bring home the enormity of this crime and its consequences.”
Craig’s partner as well as his mother, father and brother had articulated what his loss meant to them.