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JIM SPENCE: Dundee killer Robbie McIntosh should never be released from prison

Robbie Mcintosh parole hearing set for tomorrow.
Robbie Mcintosh parole hearing set for tomorrow.

Some folk should never be freed from prison and the murderer Robbie McIntosh is one of them.

Some individuals are just too dangerous to the rest of us to be let loose.

And to those who quibble I’d say – let them live next door to you then.

As a law student more than 30 years ago my LLB course included the study of penology – prisons and sentencing.

After visits to Perth Prison, Polmont Young Offenders institution, and Cornton Vale women’s prison to meet inmates, I eventually came to regard the subject matter as less of an academic course of study than a mishmash of unproven theory, wishful thinking, and pseudo psychology.

With news that the notorious killer Robbie McIntosh is now eligible to apply for parole, those prison visits came back to my mind.

On those trips we were allowed to speak to folk who had committed some heinous crimes. It was a grim experience.

Among some there was a complete absence of empathy or remorse. Or indeed any notion that they had done anything wrong at all.

I went in with the rest of my class in a sympathetic frame of mind regarding the notion of rehabilitation. But I emerged with a much less rosy view.

The tales of offences were as frank as they were brutal. And the scales fell from my eyes rapidly.

Robbie McIntosh. Photo: Police Scotland.

I was a mature student – around 30 years old at the time – and had known some wild characters growing up. But this was of a different magnitude.

Some of those we met were cold, calculating, and impenetrable.

It was an usettling experience. And bluntly it left a mark on me and replaced my naivety with a harsher view.

Robbie McIntosh in prison means his victim can re-build her life

It would be joyous if the world were a peaceful place where the brotherhood of man and the sisterhood of women reigned supreme.

Unfortunately that’s not the case.

Just ask Linda McDonald, who was left for dead five minutes from her front door in Templeton Woods in 2017 after a vicious assault by the previously convicted killer Robbie McIntosh.

Linda McDonald has launched the Justice 4 Linda campaign.

He was out on home leave while serving a life sentence for the brutal murder of Anne Nicoll whom he stabbed 29 times on the slopes of the Law, when he was aged just 15.

McIntosh left Linda McDonald fighting for her life after battering her with a dumbbell.

I met Linda and her husband Matt a while back in those woods while they were out walking.

I used to play a five a side football with Matt, an easy going genial bloke who was always good company.

The courage it had taken for Linda to venture back out to the place where her life almost ended at the hands of a sadistic and brutal murderer was immense.

The unimaginable terror she faced as she fought for her life at the hands a killer is truly unthinkable.

Linda McDonald and her husband Matt at court for the trial of Robbie McIntosh. Wullie Marr Photography

She told me her tale that day with Matt, her rock, by her side.

What they’ve been through together in the years since that unprovoked attack has been a test which the vast majority of us will never have to experience or be able to imagine.

Little comfort in official assurances

A review released in 2019 into what went wrong in allowing Robbie McIntosh out to prison to almost murder again, found a psychological assessment in 2012 showed a high risk of him re-offending.

Yet the report also added his attack on Linda McDonald “could not have been predicted’.

That beggars belief.

How could he be categorised as a high risk potential re-offender at the same as a  future attack on another victim was not predictable?

The two statements are mutually exclusive.

A personal assurance to Linda given by Nicola Sturgeon in 2019 that lessons would be learned has amounted to nothing.

A bland statement issued instead on behalf of a Scottish Government spokesman offers no comfort.

It says they want a system of release which has risk assessment and victim safety at its heart.

But of those two only one is really important.

Victim’s needs must always come first

In such circumstances we’re not weighing up the niceties of a debate between two innocent parties.

On one side there is a completely blameless grievously wronged woman and on the other a deranged, dangerous and guilty man who almost took her life with his barbaric attack.

The law must always place the victim ahead of the perpetrator and in this case it has failed to do so miserably.

The notion of rehabilitation is honourable but deeply flawed.

There walk among us some violent and very dangerous individuals.

Our police and prison officers face them daily and see them at their very worst.

The rest of us only read about it or hear about it but never have to actually confront such sadistic evil.

Linda McDonald has to learn to live with the consequences of the decisions of those who have failed her by allowing a deranged individual loose

I wonder if their consciences are as clear as her courage is profound.