Murderer is freed from court by mistake

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The Independent Online

A teenage murderer was on the run yesterday after being released by mistake at a court yesterday.

Strathclyde police said that James McCormick, 17, was dangerous and should not be approached. He was freed after a mix-up between the police, the Scottish Prison Service and the court security firm Reliance Custodial Services at Hamilton Sheriff Court in Lanarkshire.

McCormick was branded an "animal" by a judge who jailed him for life last year for stabbing to death Thomas Loughrey, a teenager, in Glasgow. McCormick had attacked Loughrey when he tried to stop McCormick assaulting his girlfriend. McCormick reportedly laughed and winked at his victim's family as he was sentenced.

It was unclear yesterday what circumstances had led to his release. He had been brought to the court by Reliance, which only took over the contract to provide prisoner escort services on Monday. A source close to the company said he had not been in its custody at the time of his release.

One line of inquiry is believed to be that McCormick persuaded another defendant to swap identities with him and that he was released on police bail after appearing before the court under that false identity.

The Scottish Justice Minister, Cathy Jamieson, said the release of McCormick was "a matter of grave concern". She said: "I have demanded an immediate and detailed report from the chief executive of the Scottish Prison Service, who monitors this contract with Reliance, into how this happened."