Dewar blocks killer's transfer to Ulster jail

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The Government was forced into a U-turn last night when it blocked the proposed transfer of a convicted murderer to the loyalist wing of Northern Ireland's Maze Prison.

Donald Dewar, the Secretary for State for Scotland, admitted that the move of Jason Campbell, who murdered a 16-year-old Catholic football supporter in an unprovoked attack, had "not been handled as it should have been". At the request of the paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force, Campbell, 25, was due to be moved to the Maze as part of the confidence building measures surrounding the Ulster peace talks.

The reversal of policy by the Scottish Office, which earlier this week insisted the controversial transfer would go ahead, has highlighted both administrative deficiencies inside the department as well as tensions with the Northern Ireland office. Mr Dewar said Campbell could re-apply to move under new legislation covering prison transfers which came into force on 1 October. "But I am absolutely clear that the application he made should not have been granted."

It emerged that in a hasty review Mr Dewar had found that at least one of the key claims made by Campbell in his application to be transferred was false: the person he named as a relative did not now appear to be a member of his family. How this was originally missed is unclear, though Mr Dewar hinted last night that it could have been through haste to help the peace talks.

"If this led to facts not being checked as thoroughly as they might otherwise have been, then the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and I both regret this," he said. Last night the Tory constitutional affairs spokesman Michael Ancram called on Scottish orisons minister Henry McLeish to resign over what he said had been a "frightening saga of incompetence and irresponsibility".