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Monday, August 2, 1999 Published at 14:53 GMT 15:53 UK


UK

Legal loophole murderer freed

Ruddle argued the treatment was proving ineffective

A murderer has been freed from a state psychiatric hospital on the grounds that he cannot be treated there.

The decision to free Noel Ruddle, who was sent to Carstairs Hospital in Scotland without limit of time in 1991 for the murder of his neighbour, is expected to open the floodgates on similar appeals.

Ruddle appealed against his detention, arguing there is no treatment available for his personality disorder at the state hospital and he had shown a marked improvement.


[ image: Ruddle was detained at Carstairs]
Ruddle was detained at Carstairs
The appeal was heard at Lanark Sheriff Court nearly three months ago.

In a written ruling, Sheriff Douglas Allan said Ruddle's disorder, which had initially sent him into violent rages, could not be treated at the state hospital and therefore it was not appropriate for him to remain in detention. He ordered his immediate release.

Last year, the House of Lords rejected a similar bid for freedom by Carstairs inmate Alexander Reid

Reid was ordered to be detained without limit of time at the maximum-security hospital for stabbing to death Angela McCabe in her Glasgow home in 1967.

His plea of culpable homicide was accepted because of his mental state.

Ruddle, who was diagnosed as suffering from an extreme form of paranoid schizophrenia, shot next door neighbour James McConville with a Kalashnikov assault rifle when he called at his door in December 1991.

Public house

Ruddle bought the rifle and ammunition in a public house in the Gorbals area of Glasgow from a former soldier who had brought it back as a souvenir from the Gulf War.

Mr McConville called at Ruddle's home in the Gorbals and was shot at point blank range.

He then fired at random from the balcony of his home and police laid siege to the flat until he gave himself up.

He was ordered to be detained at Carstairs in 1991, but by August 1992 there was a marked improvement in the condition which led to the detention order.

Until August 1992 he had been treated with a standard anti-psychotic drug and an anti-depressant drug.

But since August 1992 the court heard he had shown no signs of psychosis.

Anti-social disorder

By early 1994 it was considered Ruddle now suffered from an anti-social personality disorder.

Doctors believed he had made a remarkable improvement and was taken off all psychotropic medication.

But it was considered he needed further help to combat desires for drugs abuse, general anxiety and his inability to solve life's daily problems.

Sheriff Allan said: "The applicant suffers from a mental disorder which is a persistent one manifested only by abnormally aggressive or seriously irresponsible conduct; but medical treatment in a hospital is not likely to alleviate or prevent a deterioration of his condition.

"It is not appropriate for the applicant to remain liable to be recalled to hospital for further medical treatment.

"The applicant is entitled to absolute discharge from liability to detention."

The outcome of the case of Ruddle, which was opposed by the Scottish secretary, could lead to a series of similar applications.



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