Sex abuser freed 5 years into 48-year jail sentence

Victims' relatives armed with posters and banners were waiting at the gates of Saughton as Robert Manson was freed. Picture: Neil Hanna

Victims' relatives armed with posters and banners were waiting at the gates of Saughton as Robert Manson was freed. Picture: Neil Hanna

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A PAEDOPHILE who abused a string of children over three decades has walked free from prison after spending just five years behind bars.

Lorry driver Robert Manson, 66, preyed on three girls and a boy aged as young as eight between 1979 and 2010 and was given jail sentences totalling 48 years.

Frustrated relatives of his victims gathered outside the prison gates at Saughton yesterday to voice their anger at Manson’s release.

Armed with posters of his face and banners, they were kept back by officers as the sex offender was driven away by police escort while shielding his face from view.

One protester, who cannot be named to protect the victim’s identity, said: “I just want to make him aware that we know that he’s out and we are standing together.

“He has been in there for five years and we have been suffocating – now he’s getting out and everybody is panicking.”

Manson’s disturbing record was discovered by police who found sickening videos on his computer during a raid on an unrelated matter in 2010.

He admitted six charges of serious and sustained sexual assaults on the four children at addresses in Edinburgh over the 30-year period.

Manson was handed individual sentences amounting to 48 years, but was ordered to serve them concurrently, leaving him with an eight-year prison term.

Manson – who was described by judge Lady Stacey as posing a “threat to public safety” – is understood to have arranged to stay in a city hostel.

He will be on a two-year supervision order and his movements will be restricted.However, his victims and their families said this brought them little comfort.

One said: “We’re not going to have much of a life now. It was a horrific crime. He was given 48 years for six charges. Their childhood has been ripped from them.”

He said victims’ relatives had been lobbying for Manson to remain behind bars via the Victim Notification Scheme and the Parole Board, but were devastated to find out that he had been found eligible for release after five years.

“He was given 48 years and he only does five,” said the relative. “We are angry because we don’t feel like we’ve had the right justice.

“We want to show him that we are not going to back down. We feel like we’re the criminals here. We just want people to know that this guy is out. People have got to be wary. He preyed on vulnerable people.

“We thought he had at least a good couple of years, for us to have a life before we have to think about going through this.”

Under current policy, 
prisoners are eligible for parole after serving half of their sentence, and are automatically released after completing two-thirds of the jail term.

Manson, who was in HMP Glenochil before being transferred to Saughton in preparation for his release, is understood to have turned to religion during his stint in prison.

The victim’s relative said: “He just wanted to be a model prisoner so he could get out earlier. He says he has found God – but he’s just saying that.”

He added: “He’s not sorry for anything he has done. He apparently has enjoyed jail, he says he just misses the swimming pool – that just makes us even more angry.”

Scottish Conservative whip John Lamont said Manson’s release would be devastating for young victims who are still trying to cope with their traumatic experiences – and called for tougher punishments for “dangerous” offenders.

He said: “If automatic early release was scrapped, this dangerous individual would at least be serving the whole term. People will be astonished that someone who could notch up a 48-year sentence is deemed fit for release after only five.

“The victims and their families will be devastated at this move, which illustrates once again the vulnerability of Scotland’s justice system when it comes to punishing dangerous offenders.”

The sentiment was echoed by the victims’ relatives, with one adding: “We are only human – our lives are a joke because of this. Trying to get somebody to listen to our side has been the hardest thing in the world.”

Another parent, who was among the four people outside the prison gates yesterday, said: “My child got a life sentence and he’s out in five years. That’s wrong – a robber can get more. [Outside the prison] I screamed at him from the soles of my feet. He was holding his hands over his face. I don’t want anybody to go through that pain.”

She said several strangers approached the group outside the prison to congratulate them on staying strong.

“I just want people to be aware,” she said. “I don’t want any other kid to ever go through what mine has. We’re going to be looking over our shoulders.”

The Scottish Prison Service said it was unable to comment on individual prisoners.

A spokesman for Police Scotland said: “Sex offenders are monitored robustly under the terms of Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements.”

CHANGES IN PIPELINE FOR AUTOMATIC EARLY RELEASE

PLANS to end automatic early release for offenders serving four or more years in prison are currently passing through Holyrood.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said in February that the Prisoners (Control of Release) (Scotland) Bill would be tightened to prevent any long-term prisoner automatically being liberated after two-thirds of their sentence.

An offender sentenced to four or more years may be released on licence after serving at least half their sentence. If not already released, the prisoner must be released on licence after serving two-thirds of the sentence.

Ministers had intended to end automatic early release for sex offenders sentenced to four years or more as well as serious offenders sentenced to over ten years.

The Conservatives claim the SNP commitment to scrap automatic early release for all offenders with long-term sentences will only apply to three per cent of prisoners.

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson yesterday fought off criticism from opposition MSPs and outspoken academics, paving the way for plans to reduce community supervision for long-term offenders to a minimum of six months.