BBC BLOGS - Blether with Brian
« Previous | Main | Next »

Stepping back

Brian Taylor | 14:33 UK time, Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Fair bit of chat at Holyrood this afternoon as to whether a formal statement from the Justice Secretary is required following the case of Robert Foye.

You’ll remember, I’m sure, that he is the man who absconded from Castle Huntly open prison and raped a schoolgirl.

A review, conducted by the Scottish Prison Service itself, has concluded that absconding and indeed reoffending were possibilities in Foye’s case. However, there were no indicators that predicted rape.

The review has been dismissed as deeply unsatisfactory by some - and, at Holyrood, the Tories want Kenny MacAskill, the Justice Secretary, to set out his position.

My understanding is that the minister isn’t particularly averse to making a statement if that might help - but that there is a feeling further parliamentary scrutiny can usefully be pursued via oral questions to himself or to the first minister.

Dreadful case

On this topic, did you catch Mike Duffy, Scotland’s Director of Prisons, on Newsnight last night or Good Morning Scotland earlier today?

He delivered a coherent explanation: that assessment of prisoners comprises a calculation of the risk of reoffending together with other factors; that one must prepare long-term prisoners for release by using, among other things, open prisons; that the service would learn lessons from this dreadful case.

To me, however, his answers sounded just a little too mechanistic. Difficult, I know, for a man immersed in the service, but perhaps he needed to step back and consider this case from the perspective of the public - who are understandably shocked and demanding answers.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

There is indeed to be a statement on the Foye case. As previously billed here, ministers weren't hostile to the notion.

It was left to Bruce Crawford as minister for parliament to negotiate behind the scenes.

Pressed by the Tories, he announced a short time ago that the parliamentary business for next week will be changed to allow time for a statement by the justice secretary.

Good call. Parliament doesn't just make the law. It ventilates popular concern about the application of the law and the penal system.


  • 1.
  • At 04:19 PM on 19 Mar 2008,
  • Colin wrote:

Hope I'm not an apologist for the Prison Service or Mr Duffy - but I guess its like all work with difficult humans/human situations - "damned if you do and damned if you don't".
Our prisons are full - and yet we already imprison more than any other comparable society.
If the prisons get more 'clogged' by taking 'no risks', then prison officers and wardens are saying increasingly openly that their will be riots etc.
We need alternatives that are not "soft", that are enforced - and that do actually work. Major problem is that they may contravene Human Rights legislation!
I think the Justice Secretary is grasping the nettle - but its bound to sting him a little!

  • 2.
  • At 04:24 PM on 19 Mar 2008,
  • djmac wrote:


Read your latest post and was quite intrigued how your last para can be so applied to yourself with respect to your blog on 'Strive and Wait'

'To me, however, his answers sounded just a little too mechanistic. Difficult, I know, for a man immersed in the service, but perhaps he needed to step back and consider this case from the perspective of the public - who are understandably shocked and demanding answers.'

Your readers, Brian, 'Strive and Wait'!!

'Sic a parcel of rogues in a Nation'

  • 3.
  • At 04:48 PM on 19 Mar 2008,
  • Stewart wrote:

Brian it is not his job to see it from the publics point of view.

On Newsnight last night all that happended was a civil servant was lambstated for trying to offer a coherant explantion of the system .

I thought he did well last night and all he was trying to say is its unfortunate but since open prisons work of cource they are going to be a few cases where it doesnt. All last night showed was a BBC journalist trying to gain cheap points against a civil servant who is trying to do his job

  • 4.
  • At 05:41 PM on 19 Mar 2008,
  • kevin wrote:

Bring back the Birch that what i say , since we`ve got young gangs with no respect for anyone,they`ve got knives and other weapons and willing to use them . Lets get the leaders of gangs and individuals and give them 3 of the birch in public infront of the young offenders in gangs which take part in these criminal acts dont think they would fancy that and if they get caught again double it.
Anyone that gets a sentence in jail for a knife crime or burglary rape give them 2 each week until there sentence is finished I wonder if they would like to go back for more then ,might not work for everyone but i`m sure it would stop alot.

  • 5.
  • At 03:02 PM on 20 Mar 2008,
  • Aaron wrote:

"Major problem is that they may contravene Human Rights legislation"

The really sad fact is people like him do not deserve to be called human.

We let them hide behind Human rights law and give them social workers because no one is really bad, it is not their fault, it is our society that made them this way.

When a man rapes a woman or girl it is not because he was not hugged enough when he was a child, it is because he is evil.

These people are a cancer in our society so why are we letting them out....give them life and make it life...more walls, bars and guards are the solution.

  • 6.
  • At 05:08 PM on 20 Mar 2008,
  • Richard the Rogue wrote:

I heard Mr. Duffy and agree that his answers were far too mechanistic. His argument was basically that the points system used determined that Foyle was eligible for open prison and therefore that was the end of it. He did not for a moment appear to realise that the system might be broken.

I don't pretend to have the answers but one thing is obvious to anyone with half an eye- Foyle should not have been allowed to serve his sentence in an open prison.

"However, there were no indicators that predicted rape."

How about, healthy young man, normal high sexual drive, deprived of heterosexual sexual activity for a number of years, gets out on release and can no longer 'keep it in his trousers'.

Lack of sexual outlet in prisons causes a lot of extra tension/violence which must carry over into the early stages of a prisoners release if there is no sexual partner immediately available.

The occasional rape by prisoners on day release, regrettable as it obviously is, is less surprising to me than the fact that it doesn't happen more often.

If we are really interested in rehabilitation and protection of the public surely we should be considering conjugal visits for all prisoners but especially those in cat.C and cat.D prisons.

Other more civilised countries allow it, perhaps the McLiesh Commission could consider that.

This post is closed to new comments.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.