If Law Liller Robbie McIntosh ever thinks about his victims then Linda McDonald’s strength and courage will surely give him nightmares.
McIntosh was out from prison on home leave, 16 years after murdering Dundee civil servant Anne Nicoll, when he attacked Mrs McDonald with a dumb-bell in Templeton Woods.
Mrs McDonald survived – barely – and is now campaigning for the law regarding home visits, and the supervision of prisoners on those visits, to be tightened.
Justice secretary Humza Yousaf should pay close attention to what Mrs McDonald has to say when they meet to discuss her case.
Of course, the prospect of rehabilitation for offenders and the need for home leave to reintroduce convicts into society are cornerstones of our justice system.
The idea that some people are just wrong runs counter to our better natures. We cannot just lock people up and throw away they key, no matter how tempting that may be.
But equally, as the old saying goes, “if you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime”. Those who have broken the law and, in particular those whose crimes, like McIntosh’s, are fuelled by a depravity beyond comprehension must earn their freedom by degrees.
This means that they are subject to the strictest controls and monitoring as they progress through the system.
There is the possibility that McIntosh was able to convince people he was a suitable candidate for home leave, but that possibility also suggests the scrutiny of McIntosh was just not good enough.
But it’s not the prospect of spending the rest of his life behind bars that will frustrate McIntosh, it is the way Mrs McDonald has started reasserting control over her own life after enduring a horror that would destroy many of us.
In the immediate aftermath of the attack, Mrs McDonald and her family kept their own counsel but she has, in recent weeks, opened up about her experiences and her concerns about a similar situation occurring again.
Reporters meet and interview lots of people. Few have struck me as being quite as impressive as Mrs McDonald in her quiet bravery and resilience.
And this tells us one more thing that should distress the McIntoshs of this world, those who feel to need to inflict violence: that even if the face of absolute horror and the worst of circumstance, the best of humanity can emerge.
Mrs McDonald was doing an unexceptional thing – walking her dog – on what should have been an unexceptional day when she was attacked, yet has shown herself to be a truly exceptional person in her recovery.
Just as McIntosh shows humanity at its worst, the refusal of Mrs McDonald to allow his crime to define her shows humanity at its best.