Glasgow & West Scotland

Police apologise over murders of Diane and Holly Fallon

Holly and Diane Fallon
Image caption The bodies of Holly Fallon and her mother Diane were found in Ayrshire

Strathclyde Police have apologised for their handling of sex offender Thomas Smith, who murdered a mother and her 10-year-old daughter in Ayrshire.

Smith killed Diane Fallon and daughter Holly in Cronberry in March 2009.

An independent review was commissioned after it emerged the killer was a registered sex offender who was living next door to the family.

The force said it was sorry he was able to murder Diane and Holly "while we had responsibility for managing him".

The independent case review said "more robust" management of Smith could have identified his "increasing risk".

Residents of the tiny East Ayrshire village, which has just 30 homes, were not told that Smith, a former soldier, had been jailed for six months in 2006 for sexually assaulting a 10-year-old girl on Teeside.

Strathclyde Police did know that Smith was a registered sex offender but the report said they failed to assess whether his address was suitable and struggled to monitor him.

In particular officers missed opportunities to uncover violence against young women and contact with children which may have led to Smith's arrest before the murders.

The Serious Case Review report, by Robert Thomson of the Lothian and Borders Community Justice Authority, said: "I cannot say that it would have prevented the murders of Diane and Holly Fallon, but potentially he may not have been in a position to commit these murders at that point in time.

"There were several missed investigative opportunities that should have resulted in Smith being subjected to greater police scrutiny, which may have resulted in a return to custody."

In response, Assistant Chief Constable George Hamilton, of Strathclyde Police, said he accepted the recommendations of the Significant Case Review.

He said: "It is our job to keep people safe. Doing this means that we have to manage people like Smith in our communities.

"I am sorry that he was able to murder Diane and Holly while we had responsibility for managing him.

Image caption Thomas Smith must serve a minimum of 32 years in prison

"I have met with the family of Diane and Holly Fallon, shared the findings of the report with them and I have made that apology directly to them.

"There are undoubtedly things that we could and should have done better."

Mr Hamilton said, as a result of the review process, "lessons have been learned and major improvements have been made".

The Significant Case Review noted that Smith's earlier conviction had shown he had "perpetrated two sexual assaults on different stranger children in different episodes on the same day".

The report said this was "very rare" and Strathclyde Police correctly identified Smith as "high risk".

However, the police's reasons for this were "not articulated or analysed".

The review called for the police to be more "objective and informed" in risk assessments of sex offenders.

It also claimed that the "plausibility" given to Smith's denials of the first sex offence by the risk assessment may have "distracted" the officers who had the task of managing him.

The review said repeating the offender's version of events in the risk assessment was "not helpful or necessarily good practice".

The case review concluded that the police's offender management unit was "struggling to proactively manage" offenders with little managerial direction.

It also said it was "great concern" that key information was not added to the Scottish Intelligence Database.

In the report's conclusion, it said that registered sex offenders were "increasingly aware of their rights and the limited powers the police have in relation to their management".

It said: "Officers are personally discouraged from taking innovative action and are less likely to push the boundaries of their police powers in the established climate of litigation and complaint."

The review called on the Scottish government to boost police powers over sex offenders.

'Benchmark of depravity'

In total, the report made 34 recommendations.

It said more resources should be dedicated to monitoring convicted criminals; there should be a better system for sharing intelligence; and wider powers should be considered: perhaps allowing police to search sex offenders' properties without a warrant and examine their mobile phones.

Smith had been a neighbour of Ms Fallon and her daughter for just over a year when he murdered them.

Ms Fallon, 43, was brutally sexually assaulted and her daughter raped before having their necks compressed and being strangled with a ligature.

The victims' bodies were then dumped by Smith.

Jailing Smith, who is now 28, for life at the High Court in Glasgow, Judge Lord Turnbull told him: "You have set a benchmark of depravity below which it is difficult to imagine any other human being sinking."

The judge said he should serve at least 32 years before being eligible for parole.

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