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Wednesday, 11 April, 2001, 12:44 GMT 13:44 UK
Ruddle escapes jail over death threat
Ruddle Carstairs graphic
Ruddle was controversially released from Carstairs
A Scottish killer who was released from a top security psychiatric hospital in controversial circumstances has escaped a prison sentence for threatening to kill a priest.

Noel Ruddle, 46, was convicted of culpable manslaughter after shooting dead a neighbour in Glasgow with a Kalashnikov assault rifle in 1991.

He was convicted on the grounds of diminished responsibility and sent to Carstairs Hospital in Lanarkshire - but walked free in 1999 after his lawyers exploited a legal loophole.

The loophole allowed the psychiatric patient to go free from the Scottish state hospital after it was argued that his disorder could no longer be treated by doctors there.

He has always maintained he never had the slightest intention of injuring or killing anyone, let alone the local priest

Richard Merz
Defence lawyer
On Wednesday, Ruddle was given a three-year Community Rehabilitation Order at Guildford Crown Court, Surrey.

Ruddle, who had been living in Leatherhead since his release, had earlier pleaded guilty to making a threat to kill on 10 October last year.

He contacted his social worker, Mary Fricker, on the telephone and told her he wanted to kill someone.

Richard Crabtree, prosecuting, told the court: "In the early hours of October 10 the defendant contacted the Outreach organisation on his mobile phone and said he intended to kill someone in the next two hours."

'A cry for help'

Asked why by his social worker, Ruddle said: "'Why not, I have done it before and got a buzz out of it'," Mr Crabtree said.

At the time of the offence Ruddle had a severe drink and drugs problem.

He told his social worker he knew where his local Catholic priest lived and wanted to kill him, as he had been abused by nuns and priests when he was younger.

Carstairs State Hospital
Noel Ruddle was sent to Carstairs in 1992
Police who arrested him 12 hours later said it was clear he had been drinking and was under the influence when he made his threat.

Richard Merz, defending, told the court: "He recognises he should have sought help much earlier.

"It was a cry for help, albeit a cry for help with very considerable consequences.

"He has always maintained he never had the slightest intention of injuring or killing anyone, let alone the local priest.

"It was an extremely misconceived cry for help from somebody who was depressed and under the influence of alcohol."

'Concerned about this offence'

Judge Christopher Critchlow gave Ruddle a three year community rehabilitation order, with conditions that he sleeps each night at his flat in Leatherhead and has weekly contact with mental health workers.

He was also referred for treatment to a drink and drugs clinic.

Noel Ruddle
Noel Ruddle moved to Surrey after his release
In passing the sentence, as recommended by the Probation Service, he said: "When looking at your history and reading all the reports on you that I have, there is clearly reason to be very concerned about this offence because of what you have done in the past.

"I bear in mind that you pleaded guilty and I give you credit for that.

"It's fair to say that nearly 12 hours after you intended the threat to kill you did nothing.

"I am prepared to put you in the trust of the court by imposing a sentence of a three year community rehabilitation order."

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See also:

16 Jun 00 | Scotland
Killers fail in freedom bid
30 Mar 00 | Scotland
Ministers act on Ruddle report
29 Nov 99 | Scotland
Killers win legal challenge
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