A Dundee grandmother’s fight for justice after she was almost beaten to death by convicted killer Robbie McIntosh has been unanimously backed by opposition leaders at Holyrood.
Linda McDonald, 57, was brutally assaulted in the city’s Templeton Woods in August 2017 while McIntosh was on home leave from prison.
He was already serving a life sentence for the 2001 murder of civil servant Anne Nicoll when he launched the frenzied assault, striking her repeatedly with a dumbbell.
Nearly five years on, Mrs McDonald has launched Justice4Linda – a campaign to help victims find answers and to change parole laws for high risk offenders.
McIntosh, now 32, was only 15 when he was jailed for life for Anne Nicoll’s murder on Dundee Law, where he stabbed her 29 times.
He is now eligible to apply for parole.
What is Linda McDonald campaigning for?
Mrs McDonald has called for “more robust and consistent multi-agency protection with proportionate levels of public safeguards against high risk offenders”.
She wants the government to “address key failures in the current system” and is advocating for prisoners not be released “when the stakes are too high”.
Mrs McDonald now has the support of the leaders of all three opposition parties at the Scottish Parliament as she continues her fight for justice.
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “The attack Linda McDonald suffered was absolutely barbaric and heinous.
“Over the last five years, Linda has proven to be an inspirational and extraordinary campaigner to fight to ensure this doesn’t happen to other unsuspecting victims.
“Her experiences within the justice system should shame us all.
“Linda has been let down at every turn when she should have been supported through her horrific ordeal.”
Mr Ross said his party is “proud to stand up for victims like Linda”, adding that murderers like Robbie McIntosh “should never be allowed out on license to carry out more despicable attacks”.
“All too often the SNP’s justice system favours criminals over victims,” Mr Ross said.
“That is why my party are bringing forward a wide-ranging series of proposals including plans for whole-life sentences as well as a Victims Law, which will ensure victims are always put first.”
‘Victims should not have to live in fear’
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar applauded Mrs McDonald’s bravery in coming forward to share her story and demand change.
He described her ordeal as “heartbreaking” and said it “must prompt action to make sure the failures which saw her attacked are never repeated”.
Mr Sarwar said: “Victims should not have to live in fear and the public should not needlessly be put at risk by violent thugs in the middle of sentences roaming our streets unsupervised.
“But it should not take stories like this for ministers to do the right thing – they should act now.”
Lib Dem leader hails inspiring persistence
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “I’m inspired by the persistence shown by Linda McDonald.
“Victims like Linda shouldn’t be without the answers to straightforward questions years later.
“It does nothing to help people feel safe and supported through the criminal justice process.
“People who have committed horrendous crimes need to be robustly monitored and managed.
“It’s important to learn lessons to ensure that something like this never happens again.”
Sorry not enough in fight for justice
Mrs McDonald told The Courier she hopes the campaign will help bring her closure as she begins to “piece her life back together”.
A review into what went wrong was released in 2019.
It found a psychological assessment of McIntosh carried out in 2012 indicated a high risk of re-offending.
However, the report added his attack on Mrs McDonald “could not have been predicted”.
Humza Yousaf, then justice secretary, apologised to her in 2020.
The group tasked with monitoring McIntosh and the Scottish Prison Service have also said sorry.
No response from Nicola Sturgeon
Mrs McDonald was given a personal assurance from Nicola Sturgeon in 2019 that lessons would be learned from her ordeal.
The Courier asked the first minister for a comment both through the SNP and the Scottish Government but none was forthcoming.
Instead, a statement was issued through a government spokesperson.
It said: “We want a system of release which has risk assessment and victim safety at its heart and we will continue to take the necessary steps to help deliver this.
“We remain clear prison is needed for those who pose a risk of serious harm.
“We acknowledge Mrs McDonald’s bravery in continuing to raise these issues, and that she wishes to ensure all parties learn from this case.
“We also send deepest sympathy to the family of the first victim for their loss.”