A shocking loophole in the law has allowed dozens of dangerous convicts freed on tags to go on the run in England – where Scottish police can’t arrest them.

An official prison watchdog report has revealed in June last year 26 Scottish prisoners were "unlawfully at large" in England, half the 54 total who had absconded after being liberated on Home Detention Curfew (HDC) tags.

It has been recommended that the practice be suspended until communication with authorities south of the Border are improved.

The system’s issues came to light following the murder of Craig McCelland in Paisley, the Daily Record reported.

The dad-of-three  was knifed to death by James Wright, 25, who had avoided the law for six months after destroying his tag before carrying out the random attack.

The murder led the HM Inspectorate of Prisons for Scotland (HMIPS) to order a review of the system in July last year.

It said: “Serious consideration should be given to temporarily suspending HDC releases outwith Scotland until a more rigorous communication protocol is developed between the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) Police Scotland and the English authorities in relation to the monitoring and licence revocation process.”

The SPS were forced to carry out an overhaul of their procedures.

But rather than ending the practice of releasing prisoners to addresses in England, they have instead identified contacts in England and Wales’ 43 police forces.

The hope is that English officers will be able to track down offenders for them in areas where Police Scotland have no jurisdiction.

An SPS response to the HMIPS recommendation added that information would be placed on the National Police Computer and Police Scotland notified of the breach of licence.

Moira Ramage, a former district procurator fiscal and Parole Board for Scotland member, believes Scottish prisoners shouldn’t be allowed to give addresses outside the country for home detention.

She said: “A prisoner should have to provide an address in Scotland before being considered for a tag.

“They should have to remain in an area where Scottish police can arrest them if necessary.”

Neil Bibby MSP added: “Any loopholes in the Home Detention Curfew scheme that could put the public at risk must be closed and closed quickly.

“After the tragic murder of Craig McClelland, confidence in HDCs has been badly shaken and the Scottish Government have a responsibility to act quickly and reassure the public.”

Scottish Conservative justice spokesman Liam Kerr said: “It shouldn’t be difficult to sort this out, particularly when public safety on both sides of the Border is concerned.

“Clearly police here and in England need to get their heads together to come up with a plan.”

Of the 26 prisoners unlawfully at large in England on June 18, 11 were returned to custody before the HMIPS report was published in October.

Notes in the final draft provided by the SPS claimed inquiries on five were pending, while three remained on the run.

A small number were back in custody over separate matters.

An SPS spokesman said: “Police Scotland don’t have jurisdiction in England but English forces do and they can act on the information that is forthcoming via the Police National Computer, as indeed they have in the past.

“The HMIPS recommendation was that a more rigorous communication protocol be put in place and we have done that. The details are in the report.”

He added that, over the last 13 months, 42 of 1349 prisoners released on home detention had been allowed to go to England and that, in that period, eight who had absconded had been returned to custody.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Police Scotland and the SPS have worked together to establish a single point of contact in all 43 police forces in England and Wales, with clear processes for alerting the relevant force and National Probation Service in the event of breach.”

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