November 15, 2007
|Castle Huntly abscondees in court|
A PERTH sheriff yesterday questioned why a serial criminal had been placed in open prison within three months of receiving a sentence of more than two years.
Sheriff Lindsay Foulis thought it surprising that Robert Colquhoun was able to escape from Castle Huntly so soon after being jailed.
He was speaking as Colquhoun (27), of Stirling, appeared in court to admit absconding from the prison—dubbed a “holiday camp” after repeated walk-outs by inmates—on November 3.
Colquhoun was jailed for two years and four months at Stirling Sheriff Court on August 22 for a range of offences including housebreaking and fraud. He was moved to Castle Huntly on September 26.
He has been convicted of a total of 38 offences including numerous thefts, robbery and road traffic and firearms violations.
Depute fiscal Lucy Keane said an evening head-count on November 3 revealed he was missing. A CCTV check showed he had walked out the front gates and not returned.
Sheriff Foulis said yesterday, “If he received sentences of two years and four months for various things in Stirling in August and with regard to his record which, apart from anything else, includes countless thefts, bail breaches and offending while on bail, why was he in Castle Huntly?”
He added, “I find it really quite surprising that with his record...he walks out of Castle Huntly just over two months after he is sentenced.
“There may have been a period on remand but I thought prison was...” He did not finish his musings but left it clear he was unimpressed by the situation.
Colquhoun’s solicitor, Frazer McCready, said his client’s sentence had been backdated to May and his earliest release date, before he absconded, would have been July 16 next year.
He said he had walked out because he heard there had been “an incident” in his hometown which may have affected his children and decided to leave, “simple as that.”
Appearing in court shortly after Colquhoun was James Gibson (22) who admitted absconding from Castle Huntly on August 26.
Ms Keane said there was no indication how he escaped, but he was missing at a roll-call.
His solicitor, Cliff Culley, said he had left to resolve a family problem and decided to stay out. Jailed for eight years at the High Court in Edinburgh on May 2005 for drug offences, his earliest release would have been in January 2010.
Colquhoun and Gibson both had two months added on to their present sentences.
Castle Huntly chiefs have defended the prison’s regimes in recent months amid a spate of prisoners—many serving terms for murder and attempted murder— walking out or not returning from time out on licence.
Tory MSP Bill Aitken last month said Castle Huntly was in danger of becoming “little more than a holiday camp,” a claim hotly refuted by prison authorities.