Monday, August 2, 1999 Published at 18:22 GMT 19:22 UK
Anger at killer's loophole release
Convicted killer Noel Ruddle (centre) walks free from jail
The release of a convicted murderer from a state psychiatric hospital on a legal technicality has been branded "outrageous" by the family of the man he killed.
Noel Ruddle - who was sent to Carstairs Hospital in Scotland without limit of time for the murder of his neighbour with a Kalashnikov rifle in 1991 - was freed on the grounds that he cannot be treated there.
It is believed Ruddle has already travelled to England where he is to be taken into the care of social workers.
He appealed against his detention, arguing there was no treatment available for his personality disorder at Carstairs and he had shown a marked improvement.
In a written ruling, Sheriff Douglas Allan, who heard the appeal at Lanark Sheriff Court three months ago, ordered Ruddle's immediate release.
"We are very, very angry really disgraced,'' he said.
He said the family never expected Ruddle to be released.
"Not when I heard the psychiatric reports. They were still saying that he is nuts, basically. In my view they were still saying that he is mental and he's done a lot of bad things in Carstairs.
"He's done a lot of things in Carstairs like getting drugs and attacking other patients."
This is the second attempt by an inmate at Carstairs - where mentally ill criminals are treated - to gain his freedom on the grounds that doctors cannot offer them help.
It is thought at least a dozen similar cases are pending and the government has announced a review of the law to plug what many see as an unfair loophole.
Scottish First Minister Donald Dewar said: "Ministers will consider urgently with their legal and policy advisers the effects of this judgement.''
The former Secretary of State took over responsibility for health under devolution.
He said Ruddle had been working with health staff, social workers and the police "to prepare him for the possibility that the sheriff would agree to his appeal".
He added: "Support is available to him today and we understand that he is continuing to take advantage of it. It will remain open to him in the future. But his future is now for him to decide."
Ruddle, who was diagnosed as suffering from an extreme form of paranoid schizophrenia, shot Mr McConville when he called at his door in December 1991.
He then fired at random from the balcony of his Glasgow home and police laid siege to the flat until he gave himself up.
He was ordered to be detained in 1991, but by August 1992 there was a marked improvement in his condition.
However, it was considered he needed further help to combat desires for drug 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.''