SCOTLAND’S police chief has admitted the force made mistakes and needs to improve after it emerged criminals avoided justice for years after breaching tagging orders.

Chief Constable Iain Livingstone said there was poor communication between officers, and described the whole system of home detention curfews as having “evolved almost on an ad hoc basis”.

It comes amid widespread controversy over the practice of allowing prisoners to serve part of their sentence at home while wearing an electronic tag.

Last year, father-of-three Craig McClelland, from Paisley, was stabbed to death by serial knife thug James Wright, who was "unlawfully at large" while on a HDC.

Speaking to Holyrood’s justice committee, Mr Livingstone said: “I think there were errors made. There was poor communication.

“I think the whole system of home detention curfew had evolved almost on an ad-hoc basis.

“It didn’t have a structure and a statutory basis for that. That’s going to be rectified.

“There were different experiences in different parts of the country, and the information exchange was not as robust as it could have been.

“The status of a recall, again, wasn’t always clear to officers and staff. And if anything, that’s an example of the lack of consistency nationally.”

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf announced a shake-up of the current system last week, insisting there will now be a presumption against HDCs for offenders convicted of violent or knife crimes.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Government will introduce new legislation to make remaining unlawfully at large a specific offence, while giving police extra powers of arrest and forced entry.

A report by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) found that as of June 29, 2018, 44 offenders released from Scottish prisons on the curfews were recorded as "unlawfully at large", and more than half, 24, had been so for more than four years.

But due to failures in communication between officers and prison authorities, the vast majority, 38, were not recorded as unlawfully at large on police systems.

Mr Livingstone said he recognised the force needed to improve.

It came as the chair of Scotland's police watchdog cautioned MSPs against making changes to legislation which established the single force five years ago.

Susan Deacon, who took over as chair of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) last year, also warned against a review of her own organisation – describing such a move as "one of the worst things that could be done at this point".

Police Scotland was set up through the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012 with the aim of making savings and ensuring policing was fit for purpose in the future.

But critics have pointed to a series of scandals and setbacks since then, as well as governance failings at the SPA – the body set up to both support and scrutinise it.