Shamed McLeish Will Head Review of Prisons; Comeback: New Role for Henry McLeish

Article excerpt

Byline: Stuart Nicolson

DISGRACED ex-First Minister Henry McLeish was yesterday chosen to head abody charged with revamping Scotlands prisons.

Mr McLeish was forced to quit in 2001 in the Officegate row over hisWestminster expenses. He had been in Bute House for just one year.

A police investigation eventually cleared him of any criminal wrongdoing afterhe famously insisted that the irregularities were a muddle not a fiddle.

But Mr McLeish has now been picked to chair Scotlands new independent PrisonsCommission. The watchdog will report by June next year on how imprisonment isused in the Scottish judicial system.

It is the second high-profile job given to the Labour elder statesman by theScottish Executive after he was also chosen to sit on the commission looking atthe future of broadcasting in Scotland.

The appointment to the prisons job was announced by Justice Secretary KennyMacAskill in a Holyrood debate on penal policy.

Mr MacAskill said: Im happy to be able to tell parliament that one of itsformer First Ministers, Henry McLeish, has agreed to chair the commission.

He has the blend of skills and experience that this testing role will require.As a Westminster MP, Mr McLeish served as justice minister between 1997 and1999, which included responsibility for prisons.

Mr MacAskill said the commission would consider how imprisonment is used andhow it fits with ministers wider objectives.

He added: Full membership of the commission is being finalised and will beannounced soon. The commission will comprise a wide range of interests,including, but reaching well beyond, the criminal justice arena. Mr MacAskillreiterated the SNPs commitment to ensuring future prison projects are operatedand managed by the public sector.

And he questioned why recorded crime had fallen five per cent in the pastdecade, but the prison population had gone up by 15 per cent during the sameperiod. …