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Dispute over home leave for prisoners

The system that determines how some prisoners are released back in to society has been criticised by the partner of a convicted murderer.

Lesley Brown says urgent changes are needed to the way prison Risk Management Teams (RMTs) function – a call that has been backed by prisoner support groups.

Her partner, Kenny Lawday, has been released from Castle Huntly open prison on a number of occasions but is not allowed in his home town of Blairgowrie because of concerns over his re-introduction to the community. He has to stay in a hostel.

Ms Brown, 43, of Blairgowrie, claims prisoners and their families have little or no input into RMT meetings – a set-up support groups claim can harm offenders' rehabilitation.

Ms Brown says she and her partner have been forced to wander the streets or eat in restaurants when spending time together because the hostel does not allow visitors. She believes this could have been avoided if they were allowed to address his RMT, explain the situation and have him sent to a hostel that allows visitors.

Ms Brown said: "The prisoners don't have any input in these meetings and there's no right of appeal against any of the decisions. Nobody actually knows who these people are that attend the RMT meetings – they just seem to be an anonymous little body of people who sit down and discuss any aspect of the progression of a prisoner.

"If either Kenny or I had been allowed to be at the RMT meeting we could have explained the situation."

She added: "I've also heard from other women who have ended up in the same position."

Lawday was dubbed the Black Swan murderer when he killed 25-year-old Robert Wallace in 1993 after his psychic grandmother claimed to have had a vision of the bird on the night of the murder.

RMTs meet when a prisoner is due home leave or a move to another prison, and decide what conditions should be attached. They are made up of prison employees, social workers and representatives of other agencies.

Pete White, founder and co-ordinator of Positive Prison, a group that supports prisoners and tries to help prevent them reoffending, claims the process can do a lot of damage. He said: "The information on which they base their decisions is sometimes incomplete, and Lesley's situation is a good example of this. The things they're trying to prevent are not being balanced against the living and social needs of prisoners and their families.

"Putting prisoners' relationships at risk by making it difficult to see their families prevents them from re-engaging.

"When you consider being in a positive relationship is one of the strongest factors in preventing someone from re-offending, threatening that relationship is a very regrettable step."

Mr White added: "RMTs probably do a lot of constructive and good work in some ways, but they would probably do more constructive and better work if they had more input from the people offenders will be living with or visiting on their return to the community."

A Scottish Prison Service spokeswoman said the process of allowing prisoners to attend RMT meetings – which is currently at the discretion of the RMT – is being reviewed.

She added that prisoners could contribute through their social workers, who attend the meetings, and through integrated case management reports that are considered by RMTs.

However, Ms Brown – whose own situation has since been resolved by the prison governor, who had Lawday moved to a different hostel – argued these reports were often out-of-date by the time they are considered by RMTs.

Contextual targeting label: 
Families

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