Scotland politics

Independent inquiry call into curfew breach murder

James Wright / Craig McLelland Image copyright Facebook/Police Scotland
Image caption James Wright (left) murdered Craig McClelland in an attack in Paisley

A cross-party call has been made for an inquiry into the circumstances that led to a Paisley father-of-three being murdered by a man on the run.

James Wright stabbed Craig McClelland to death five months after removing his tag and breaching a home curfew.

Wright was jailed for life in June for killing the 31-year-old.

Three opposition MSPs have written to Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf asking for an independent inquiry into the case.

Previous Justice Secretary Michael Matheson asked prisons and police watchdogs to "look at this matter thoroughly" in the wake of the killing.

New rules on home detention curfews (HDCs), which have been used in Scotland since 2006, were set out in October following Mr McLelland's murder.

The request to Mr Yousaf has been made by Scottish Liberal Democrats leader Willie Rennie, Scottish Labour justice spokesman Daniel Johnson, and Scottish Conservatives justice spokesman Liam Kerr.

Plea for clarity

The three MSPs said they met Mr McClelland's partner and father last week.

The letter to Mr Yousaf said: "We welcome your personal commitment to ensuring lessons will be learned but it is impossible for this to be done until there is full transparency about what occurred. There is no such transparency at present.

"We believe something clearly went very wrong and that it is incumbent on you to establish this.

"There must be clarity about the circumstances, in particular the grounds and process for releasing James Wright in the first place and how he was allowed to be unlawfully at large when he broke the rules and should have been returned to prison.

"Craig's family deserve to know and we believe that an inquiry would also undoubtedly be in the public's interest."

The letter added: "We urge you to immediately order a full independent inquiry. Without this, nobody can be assured that the solutions proposed will stop such an appalling series of events happening again."

'Specific offence'

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon described Mr McClelland's murder as "awful" and said she was not surprised the family were still seeking answers.

Both police and prison inspectors carried out reviews of systems following the incident but the family said these failed to fully explain why his killer was out on the streets.

Scottish Prison Service chief executive Colin McConnell told MSPs on Tuesday that a presumption against HDCs for those convicted of violent offences - which has been brought in following the reviews - had reduced the number of prisoners freed in such conditions from 25 to 30 a week to just seven.

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said: "While nothing can take away the grief of the McClelland family, the Scottish government will continue to do all we can to support the family to ensure that lessons are learned and improvements are made.

"I will reply to the letter as soon as possible, and will be meeting the family again shortly."

He added: ""Following the publication of the two independent inspectorate reports into the Home Detention Curfew scheme, I met with the family and advised that the Scottish government, the Scottish Prison Service, and Police Scotland had accepted all of the reports' recommendations, including considering making it a specific offence to remain 'unlawfully at large'.

"Our focus is on ensuring that relevant agencies, along with government, make real and demonstrable progress and I have asked both Inspectorates to review progress in six months' time."