A SHERIFF spoke out yesterday against moves that allow prison governors the freedom to release inmates on home detention curfews.
Sheriff Graeme Napier criticised measures enacted by the Scottish Parliament to allow governors to release prisoners on curfew without recourse to the sentencing judge, or with any right of appeal to the procurator fiscal.
Any breaches of the curfew are reported directly to the prison service, bypassing the courts altogether.
His comments came as 19 year-old Ross Gordon Lowe appeared for sentencing at Lerwick Sheriff Court yesterday.
Lowe, of the town’s Hoofields, appeared in court last month after he struggled violently with police officers during the Johnsmas Foy celebrations.
He also pleaded guilty to assaulting an officer after being taken to Lerwick Police Station and attempting to butt him on the head.
Lowe then committed a breach of the peace by calling the officers “Fenian bastards”.
Sheriff Napier deferred sentence until this week for the usual court reports.
But he also asked for an additional report from the Scottish Prison service after hearing Lowe had been at liberty since March despite receiving a 16 month sentence on 3rd October last year.
Lowe had been convicted in Aberdeen after recklessly discharging a firearm, and was also sentenced to three months detention at Lerwick Sheriff Court after breaching his bail conditions.
Having been released early, Lowe then breached the terms of his release by cutting off his tag, but no action was taken by the prison service.
“The public might expect that where someone has been sentenced to a significant custodial sentence and has then been released after only a few months, if he breaches his home detention curfew he would not have remained at liberty,” said Sheriff Napier.
“In this case I was surprised to discover on the last occasion the case was in court that in fact the accused had breached his home detention curfew, but apparently no action had been taken.”
He said Lowe had cut off his tag and allegedly threw it in the sea just days before his curfew order was due to end.
As a result he missed a full day’s curfew until the equipment could be re-installed.
Lowe also missed a curfew a second time, but no action was taken and he was untagged when he committed his latest offences at the Johnsmas Foy.
Defence agent Tommy Allan urged Sheriff Napier not to impose a custodial sentence on Lowe, adding he had never had the opportunity to carry out a probation order.
“The position from a defence point of view is probation has never been tried,” he said.
“For someone at his stage of life and with his background I would suggest to your Lordship you make probation available to him.”
Sheriff Napier also heard an appeal from Lowe, who pleaded for “one last chance” to be given his liberty.
After a lengthy period of deliberation, he told the accused he would not be detained again.
“I have been impressed with what your agent has said. I am willing to accept that you are genuinely remorseful,” he said.
To loud sighs of relief from the dock,he ordered Lowe to carry out a year’s probation.
But he warned him it would be subject to reviews.
“If you are not complying then I will deal with you by custody for these new offences, and make a section 16 order so that you will also serve the remainder of your other sentence. Be under no illusions about that.”