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Aberdeen man back in jail week after early release due to coronavirus

HMP Grampian.
HMP Grampian.

A former inmate at a north-east prison is back inside – just over a week after being released early from previous sentence due to coronavirus measures.

Reece Stewart had been out of prison for just over a week when he took his dad’s car without permission and crashed it into railings on King’s Gate in Aberdeen on Tuesday.

And the 29-year-old is already back behind bars after being remanded following an appearance at Aberdeen Sheriff Court.

Stewart pled guilty to a string of charges including careless driving, failing to stop and provide details following an accident, and driving without a licence or insurance.

He also admitted taking and driving away the car without permission and failing to surrender or provide updated information for alteration to a licence the name and address on which were no longer correct.

Stewart further admitted behaving in a threatening or abusive manner, however he denied another charge of driving while unfit through drink or drugs.

Sheriff Graham Buchanan ordered Stewart to be remanded in custody until a pre-trial hearing in relation to that charge in July, and deferred sentence on the other charges until the same date.

Aberdeen Sheriff Court

During the hearing yesterday at Aberdeen Sheriff Court, fiscal depute Kelly Mitchell said: “The accused is on licence until September 13 this year, he was released early from a sentence as a result of Covid-19.”

Defence solicitor Mike Monro had argued his client should be bailed. He said: “It’s the accused who tells the police, A, he had taken the car and, B, he had crashed it.

“The police had no knowledge of that and went o the scene and there was damage to railings there.”

However Sheriff Buchanan elected to remand Stewart, whose address was given in court papers as Bayview Court in Aberdeen.

He said: “You were released only last week early from a previous sentence. Bail is not appropriate and you will be remanded in custody.”

Following the hearing, Scottish Conservative shadow justice secretary and north-east MSP Liam Kerr said: “This case is a prime example of the dangers of letting convicted criminals out of prison early without proper monitoring.

“It’s shocking someone would re-offend just a week after being released early from HMP Grampian – it’s a mockery of the complete system.

“This is why the SNP Government must ensure proper monitoring resources are put in place to prevent instances like this happening immediately after a prisoner is released.

“Not only does it put an extra burden on our hard-working police service in the north-east, the public’s safety is also put at risk which is totally unacceptable.”

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A total of 154 inmates across Scotland have been released early under the scheme, including 13 from HMP Grampian.

The releases follow new legislation introducing powers for the early release of a specific class of inmates in Scottish prisons.

This includes short-term prisoners nearing the end of their time in custody.

The scheme is limited to those sentenced to 18 months or less and who on had 90 days or less left to serve as of April 30.

Release of prisoners under the regulations is subject to exclusions to ensure public protection, such as those who are imprisoned for life or with convictions for sexual offences, domestic abuse or terrorism offences.

A spokesman for Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf  said: “Our priority remains the safety of the public, of those working in prisons and those in custody and we are extremely grateful to the prison officers, NHS staff and others undertaking essential work in Scotland’s prisons during these unprecedented times.

“This emergency legislation, supported by Liam Kerr and the Conservatives and with similar measures in place in England and Wales, means we have a wide range of options to limit the spread of the virus and ensure the continuing safe operation of Scotland’s prisons.

“There are clear limitations on which short-term prisoners may be considered for this release scheme and detailed lists of all those eligible, including those subject to the governor’s veto, have been shared with local authorities for planning purposes.”

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