19 Prisoners in Scotland were released by mistake


BUNGLING prison chiefs has been branded “amateurish” after it was revealed 19 prisoners have been released by mistake.

The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) revealed “communication errors” and “miscalculation of release date” were just some of the reasons given for the criminals being released early.

A Freedom of information request revealed since 2011, 19 prisoners have mistakenly been released from nine different prisons across Scotland.

HMP Edinburgh Saughton

Politicians branded the figures “utterly unacceptable” and demanded “strict safeguards” are put in place to prevent it from happening again.

The SPS admitted calculating the correct release date can be “complicated.”

Scottish Conservative Justice spokeswoman Margaret Mitchell MSP said: “One incident is bad enough and utterly unacceptable.

“It makes the prison service appear amateurish.

“Public protection is of the utmost importance and mistaken releases place that at risk.

“Action must be taken to place strict safeguards in place that will prevent these mistakes from happening at all.”

The highest number of prisoners that were released by mistake, were from Barlinnie Prison, Glasgow with seven criminals liberated.

The second highest was HMP Kilmarnock, a high security prison, which saw three prisoners released since 2011.

In 2006 inmate Michael Cameron, who was on remand facing a rape charge, was battered to death in the prison by a fellow inmate.

The £65m Polmont young offenders institute, near Falkirk and HMP Edinburgh both had two prisoners released by mistake.

Cornton Vale, which houses female offenders, Low Moss and the new £140m super prison HMP Grampian have all had one prisoner freed due to admin errors.

The SPS said that after every mistaken release, the error was discussed at a Warrant Administration Group meeting.

The establishment was then “tasked to put procedures in place to ensure that every possible safeguard is put in place to prevent a repeat of a breakdown in produce.”

However since the beginning of this year, two prisoners have been released due to bungling errors.

2012 saw the highest number of prisoners mistakenly liberated, with 12 that year roaming free.

Both 2011 and 2013 saw the release of three prisoners back into the general population when they should have been behind bars.

The SPS gave details of every “cause of liberation in error” for each prisoner.

Communication error was cited four times and miscalculation of release date resulted in four prisoners being released.

Others included failure to check warrant properly, administrative error, misunderstanding over terms of warrant and terms of bail misunderstood.

Scottish Liberal Democrats Justice spokesperson Alison McInnes MSP said: “These figures suggest multiple prisoners have been released in error over multiple years for exactly the same reasons.

“This would suggest that the lessons which the Scottish Prison Service should have learned have not sunk in yet.

“Where mistakes are made, action is required to ensure that they are not repeated. That is a straightforward principle which seems to have been lost here.”

Amanda Everitt, chair-women for Mother Against Murder and Aggression said: “Errors of this nature should simply not be happening.

“It causes unnecessary distress to the victims of crime.

“Where an error does occur mistakes should be identified and lessons learned which should ensure that we do not continue to see the same mistakes time and again.

“We hope that victims were notified of these errors and respect and consideration was shown for any impact that they will have felt.”

A Scottish Prison Service spokesman said: “The decision to release a prisoner often involves more than one agency.

“It can be a complicated calculation where there are multiple short sentences and in some cases multiple warrants.

“In 2013/14 there were 27,000 releases from prison compared to 3 releases in error for the same period, so these errors represent a very small proportion.

“All releases in error are referred to the police and all cases are also internally reviewed.”

In 2007 a fraudster was wrongfully handed his liberty – he spent 111 days as a free man from Saughton Prison in Edinburgh before being hauled back in.

In 2008 a violent lag was gifted 23 days of freedom after being released from HMP Kilmarnock.

A year later and a sex offender locked up in Barlinnie in Glasgow was spent four days on the outside.

Earlier this month blundering jail staff freed the wrong prisoner because he had the same surname as an inmate due for release.

Anthony Douglas walked out and had a 24-hour taste of freedom before being returned to HMP Hewell, Worcestershire, England.