Wednesday, August 25, 1999 Published at 08:11 GMT 09:11 UK
'Knee-jerk' warning on emergency laws
Noel Ruddle's release sparked a public outcry
A leading lawyer said he hopes emergency legislation aimed at closing a legal loophole which allowed a mentally ill killer to walk free is not just a response to public pressure.
Gerry Brown, a member of the Law Society of Scotland's Criminal Committee, said any permanent legislation should take account of the two committees of the Scottish Parliament which are currently looking at the issue in depth.
He was released from Carstairs state psychiatric hospital at the start of the month because his lawyer argued his condition was not treatable, sparking a public outcry.
Mr Brown said while public safety was a key issue, so was considered law which takes account of medical and legal aspects.
"It has to be legislation which works and which complies with the Convention of Human Rights."
Mr Brown argued any permanent legislation must be based on the advice of the two committees of the Scottish Parliament which are already seeking expert opinion from both the legal and medical profession on the way forward.
Mr Wallace has given assurances that emergency legislation will be of an interim nature and more long-term law will be considered in light of the final reports.
He said: "Mr Brown is right to recognise the complexity of this situation.
"Our response has been proper. There was no knee jerk reaction and we did not recall the Scottish Parliament."
Despite his strong defence, Mr Wallace continues to be criticised by opposition members.
Shadow Justice Minister Roseanna Cunningham and Scottish Tory Party leader David McLetchie say the Scottish Executive has mishandled the saga from start to finish.
The government's proposed change to the Mental Health Act will be debated by MSPs on the day the parliament reconvenes on 1 September.
Ruddle, who shot a neighbour dead in 1991, was released from Carstairs after an appeal hearing at Lanark Sheriff Court on 2 August.
His lawyer successfully argued that his detention without limit of time was no longer valid because his mental condition has now changed and treatments at the hospital were no longer helping him.
When Ruddle was freed the Scottish Executive denied there was a danger more killers could bid for freedom in the same way.
It was subsequently revealed that cases are pending from Karl Tonner, a 51-year-old paedophile and killer, as well as fellow child killer Brian Doherty, 26.
Ministers denied the new cases paralleled the Ruddle affair and stressed that action proposed in the light of the ongoing row must not infringe the European Convention on Human Rights.