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EDITIONS
Monday, 22 July, 2002, 18:33 GMT 19:33 UK
Prisons watchdog 'will have bite'
Andrew McLellan
Andrew McLellan takes up the post in October
Scotland's new Chief Inspector of Prisons has vowed to court controversy when he takes over the watchdog role.

Andrew McLellan, a former Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, will replace Clive Fairweather in October.

Dr McLellan said he wanted to follow in the footsteps of his "fearless" predecessor.


Almost everybody you meet says we send too many people to prison and yet we seem to find it so hard to turn that around

Andrew McLellan
And he promised not to shirk his responsibilities over the four years of his contract.

"I want to be involved in controversy and difficult matters," he said.

"It is very important to me that people should be thinking about prisons and prison issues."

Mr Fairweather has been a critic of private sector involvement in the prison service during his time as chief inspector.

The prison estates review published earlier this year recommended the building of three new private jails north of the border.

Economic arguments

Mr McLellan was critical over the issue while moderator and convener of the Kirk's influential church and nation committee.

Following the announcement of his appointment on Monday, he said he had not been convinced that such a move was the best way forward.

"I have yet to be persuaded of the efficiency argument for privatising prisons," he said.

Clive Fairweather
Mr Fairweather criticised privatisation plans
"And it will still take a good deal to persuade me that the moral argument is not important."

The review has also run into opposition over the recommendation to close Peterhead prison, the home to an award-winning rehabilitation programme for sex offenders.

Mr McLellan said such a move would be "very damaging and very costly" for the local community.

"It would take a great deal of powerful argument to persuade me that that project should be uprooted from that community and placed somewhere else," he said.

"The programme that has been developed in Peterhead to deal with sex offenders, which gives some hope of reducing the likelihood of re-offending, must remain a priority for the SPS (Scottish Prison Service)."

Prison visits

Dr McLellan, 58, has been minister of St Andrew's and St George's Church in Edinburgh since 1986 - but will have to resign that post to take up his new job.

The father-of-two is a former chaplain at Cornton Vale prison, Scotland's only women's jail.

During his time as moderator in 2000/2001 he visited every Scottish prison.

Prison officer
Dr McLellan visited every Scottish jail
Dr McLellan said he had seen many encouraging aspects of the system, but been shocked by some of his other experiences.

He said the practice of slopping out was "a disgrace" and expressed approval of the Scottish Executive's promise to end it.

Mr McLellan also wants to see action on overcrowding, which he said made "everything worse" in Scotland's jails.

"It makes the atmosphere in which prisoners live worse, it makes the task of prison officers worse, it makes the opportunity for the drug culture to spread more easily greater and it makes the conditions in which prisoners' families visit them more unpleasant," he said.

Improved atmosphere

"I hope that we will continue to seek ways in which we reduce the number of people in prison.

"Almost everybody you meet says we send too many people to prison and yet we seem to find it so hard to turn that around."

However, he also stressed that the atmosphere within Scottish prisons had greatly improved over the last 30 years.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Reevel Alderson reports
"It will be no shock to ministers that Mr McLellan is opposed to privatisation"
See also:

22 Jul 02 | Scotland
10 Mar 02 | Scotland
13 Jan 02 | Scotland
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