First Minister faces public inquiry calls after killer unlawfully at large

Nicola Sturgeon faced calls for an public inquiry into the murder of a father-of-three by a criminal who was unlawfully at large.

Craig McClelland, 31, of Paisley, Renfrewshire, was stabbed to death in his home town by James Wright, who had been released from jail on a home detention curfew with an electronic tag.

Speaking at First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood, Labour’s Neil Bibby said Mr McClelland’s family do not feel the reviews commissioned by the Scottish Government have given them the answers they want about why his killer was on the streets and want a public inquiry.

Mr Bibby said: “Two reviews have indicated that there were significant failures but were not specifically tasked at looking at what went wrong in this case.

“Craig’s family have conducted themselves with unbelievable strength and dignity.

“Unfortunately they have not been able to find the answers to the questions they have been asking and they still do not have confidence that the correct lessons have been learned or that changes have been made to prevent this kind of tragedy from happening to another family.

“The McClelland family now believe that only a full public inquiry will give them the answers they deserve. Can the First Minister give them her support?”

Ms Sturgeon said Mr McClelland’s murder was “awful” and she is not surprised the family is still seeking answers.

She said the reviews by the police and prison inspectorates looked at the processes leading to Wright being released and actions taken to apprehend him, making 37 recommendations which the government has accepted.

The First Minister said immediate action was taken to strengthen home detention curfew safeguards, including a presumption against giving the curfews to people convicted of violence or knife crime.

“Lessons have been learned from this dreadful, tragic case,” she added.

She said Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf would be happy to meet with the family again and discuss what actions they feel are appropriate.

The reviews found the prison service correctly followed guidance in place regarding home detention curfew during Wright’s release from prison and the police delivered briefings and updated their systems appropriately once his order for recall was issued.

However, HMICS found officers were “unable to demonstrate that a professional level of inquiry was carried out” once Wright had breached his curfew “due to non-recording of activity undertaken to trace the offender”, who had been unlawfully at large for six months when he murdered Mr McClelland in July 2017.

The watchdog also found 44 offenders released from Scottish prisons on the curfews were recorded by the service as “unlawfully at large” as of June 29 2018, and more than half, 24, had been so for more than four years.

The vast majority, 38, were not recorded as unlawfully at large on police systems.