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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 April, 2004, 19:03 GMT 20:03 UK
Escort boss 'sorry' over escape
Reliance van
Prisoner transfer measures are being reviewed
The managing director of the security firm which mistakenly allowed a convicted murderer to be released from court has apologised for the error.

Speaking to BBC Radio Scotland, Tom Riall, of Reliance Custodial Services, said the firm would not "shirk responsibility" following the incident.

But he said he believed his staff "were still doing a first class job".

Reliance has revamped procedures, including identity checks, since James McCormick's escaped last Thursday.

Mr Riall conceded that the volume of prisoners Reliance was dealing with was "considerably greater" than had been anticipated.

We are determined to restore public confidence in what we are doing
Tom Riall
Reliance Custodial Services
He said the firm was urgently looking at increasing staff numbers at Glasgow Sheriff Court.

Mr Riall also confirmed that a case of mistaken identity had allowed 17-year-old McCormick to walk free from Hamilton Sheriff Court.

The teenager was sentenced to life after being found guilty of stabbing 17-year-old Thomas Loughrey in the Pollokshaws area of Glasgow on 27 July, 2003.

He had been appearing in court on an unconnected charge.

'Case of collusion'

Mr Riall said: "There was a case of collusion, resulting in a case of mistaken identity. I fully acknowledge that this was a mistake, that it should not have happened and we deeply regret it.

"I am particularly sorry for those most closely affected by this prisoner's crime.

"Establishing identity is an area which is prone to mistakes, it is something that we have got to tighten up on and we are currently reviewing our procedures and have taken a series of steps to ensure that, as far as possible, this cannot happen again.

James McCormick
McCormick has been described as dangerous

"We have been delivering this contract in England for seven years with hardly a blemish.

"We are determined to restore public confidence in what we are doing."

A union chief said the security "shambles" is what happens when properly paid public servants are replaced with "cheaper" private firms.

STUC general secretary Bill Speirs told a rally the blunder last Thursday which saw James McCormick trick his way out of Hamilton Sheriff Court would not have occurred had Reliance not been in charge.

The union chief was speaking at a rally in Glasgow in support of 9,500 Scottish workers with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), who are on a 48-hour strike over pay.

He said: "In terms of the message about how to deliver public services you don't have to look further than the shambles that has taken place with the so-called Reliance in terms of the prison service and guarding prisoners.

"If you actually want to see what happens when you simply say we want the cheapest service, we'll go to the private sector and get it cheaper there you see the kind of public service you can get.

"The best way to deliver is by well-motivated and properly rewarded public servants."

'Danger to the public'

On Monday, Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson said the roll-out of the Reliance contract across the country was being put on hold for the time being.

She said any expansion of the new transport arrangements for prisoners would be dependent on assurances from the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) that problems in the first phase have been addressed.

Police have been working on the theory that McCormick switched papers with another prisoner at Hamilton Sheriff Court.

Officers have warned McCormick could pose a danger to the public and should not be approached.

He is described as 5ft 9in with auburn hair and was last seen wearing a blue top and blue tracksuit bottoms.

BBC Scotland's Gavin Walker
"The claims of delays and confusion continue"

Tom Riall on Good Morning Scotland
"We deeply regret what has happened"

Probation for prison escort firm
12 Apr 04  |  Scotland
Police hunt for killer continues
11 Apr 04  |  Scotland
Escapee having 'time of his life'
10 Apr 04  |  Scotland
Father's anger at killer's escape
09 Apr 04  |  Scotland
Probe into murderer release error
08 Apr 04  |  Scotland

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