COURTS: Caroline accused among record numbers of prisoners untried or unsentenced 

By Bill Heaney

Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur has accused the SNP government of allowing the justice system to grind to a halt.

New figures revealed that around a quarter of prisoners in Scotland’s jails last year were being held on remand with the proportion of inmates who were either untried or unsentenced reaching a record level.

It is believed that these prisoners include three people accused of the brutal profile murder 25 years ago of Caroline Glachan, left, a schoolgirl from Bonhill in West Dunbartonshire.

Donna Brand, Andrew Kelly and Robert O’Brien have been charged with killing the schoolgirl in 1996.

The three, who are all from Dumbarton, made no plea to the single charge of murder they face in relation to the 14-year-old’s death.

Brand and Kelly, both 42, and O’Brien, 43, are all being held in custody. They were fully committed for trial during their hearings.

Caroline, of Bonhill, Dunbartonshire, was found dead, partially submerged in the River Leven, at Place of Bonhill, near Renton.

She was discovered on the morning of August 25, 1996, the day of her mother’s 40th birthday.

The accused were 17, 16 and 18 a quarter of a century ago, when prosecutors claim they killed Caroline.

Further appearances of the accused in court have been delayed because the Scottish justice system does not have enough counsel – either KCs or Advocates – to appear for the Crown prosecution service.

The accused are now not expected to go on trial until November next year. The delay is said to have been caused the Covid-19 pandemic and COP26.

The report highlighted by LibDem MSP McArthur, right,  details the Scottish Prison Population Statistics 2021-22, published just today which reveal that: 

  • the average daily prisoner population for 2021-22 was 7,504 – up from 7,339 the previous year.   
  • the average daily remand population increased by around 14% (from 1,634 in 2020-21 to 1,862).  
  • On the average day in 2021-22, around 25% of the prison population were held on remand – the largest proportion on remand on record.

Liam McArthur said:  “Increasing numbers are being held without a trial having taken place. That’s bad for both those accused and for their victims who are prevented from seeing justice done.

“It is time to tackle the huge backlog of cases clogging up our court system.

“Scottish Liberal Democrats have set out common sense policies that will make our communities safer. That means driving down the use of remand and ensuring that both accused and victims get their day in court.”

“Scottish prisons are facing record overcrowding and spiralling rates of self-harm. Proper investment in bail supervision orders and electronic tagging could mean that remand is only used where it is necessary to safeguard communities and public safety.”

Picture: Barlinnie Prison in Glasgow.

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