First Degree Murder

An interesting story came my way this morning by way of an internet discussion forum. It concerned the case of convicted murderer, Patrick Nicol, a young man who is serving twelve years in Shotts Prison in Lanarkshire, Scotland. Nicol’s conviction came after he was found guilty for the first-degree murder of George Reid, who was stabbed by his assailant Nicol over one hundred times.


Napier University, Craiglockart Campus, Edinburgh

The Scottish Sun newspaper reports that Nicol is now studying economics at Edinburgh’s Napier University, regularly attending lectures and participating in general student life whilst under the guard of a security firm. His fellow students are reported to have no knowledge of Nicol’s conviction. This brings up many discussion points for me. It is important however to be wary of that particular newspaper’s usual dismal style of sensationalist reporting when viewing the ins and outs of this story.

Firstly the point should be made about George Reid’s family and their feelings. It is easy to understand how they must feel about this development and aside from any other discussion care and courtesy must be given to their reaction to this information about the style of Nicol’s rehabilitation. One must attempt to empathise with any understandable bitterness and resentment they hold.

I agree with the principle of allowing Nicol to study but not the suggested method being offered. This is a classic case where online or other distance learning could be utlilised well. Such study methods are making great inroads into Higher education and and are favoured by many, including those that have to work for a living and cannot attend lectures, the latter criterion fits this person well.

There is a loss in online or distance learning of the social side of things but it should be remembered that as well as being rehabilitated Nicol is being punished for taking somebody’s life. He relinquished his liberty when he carried out that dreadful crime.

Scene of study - Napier University
Scene of study - Napier University

Another point is that it could be conceived of as a slap in the face to the many would-be students, particularly mature ones, who would love to have the opportunity to study for a degree but cannot due to work and time commitments. Many universities will still not accept a student who cannot fulfil regular lecture appearances.

My personal view is that allowing Nicol to attend traditional classes is not commensurate with the punishment he is serving for what was a heinous and vicious crime. Allowing Nicol to leave prison to visit the university fits well with the rehabilitation side of his sentencing but certainly does not fulfil the punishment he has brought upon himself by his wicked actions. My feeling is that both of those conditions have to be met.

I think he should feel himself very fortunate even in being allowed any study. let’s hope that he does. Incidentally I don’t feel that arming himself with a second undergraduate degree is going to equip him any more for the outside world when his time comes. I’d have thought that a post-graduate qualification would have served him better but that’s by-the-by.

In general I’d like to see the opportunities afforded by the different kinds of distance learning used more in prisons etc. It’s a civil way of approaching rehabilitation, but I can see some potential opposition to it forming.

Let Nicol’s rehabilitation happen online or by post. He should feel very fortunate just in that.

19 thoughts on “First Degree Murder”

  1. i just wanted to say i enjoyed your article. i do feel that you may have missed a key issue, social rehabilitation. on-line or distance learning his not going to help a man that has spent the last decade, a third of his life, in a maximum security prision cope with the outside world. day release is a common enough occurence in the prision system although harder to monitor than in the above case. the greatest danger of prision is that it harderns criminals further. the prision service has the duty to try to reduce reoffending, trying to equipe this man social skills and qualifications so that he does not end up back in the criminal justice system seems to be something that should be explored more rather than lambasted.

    nick (studying at napier)

  2. Thanks for your interesting points Nick – all very fair. It would be difficult to disagree with your point about rehabilitation. My own point in adding to that is that allowing him to study outside the prison does not fulfill the terms of his punishment. I do take your point however.

  3. i do agree regarding punishment, although what the papers fail to acknowledge, not suprising considering the daily it appeared in, is that this individual was has served 10 years already of a 12 stretch. the need now is to preventative, the SPS has now got 2 years to try to prevent him becoming a repeat offender. i agree had this taken place much sooner into his sentence it would be unacceptable, realistically i believe 2 years to socially aclimitise from a decade in prision is about right (certainly on a part time basis). although aa a Psychology student you may be in a better position than be to judging on that matter.

    thanks for your time and thoughts.


  4. I am currently studying at Napier University and it really does scare me to think that there is a Killer walking around amongst us! Mr Slasher (as he is known) tends to creep around the library preying on young girls – and the really scary thing is that he carries a big bag which I believe contains a “JML Knife”, although this has not been confirmed. He often walks about in a zig-zag pattern leading us to believe he has access to alcohol – I am particularly concerned about this issue.

  5. There’s a lot of questions left unanswered by the rather lurid article. Is the man sorry? Is he really trying to get his life together? Why is he getting the degree for free when no one else could hope for that? Is 10-12yrs enough for murder? What are the circumtances that are allowing this; such as is this a rehab prgramme? … too many ifs and buts really.

  6. I think if I had concerns such as those I would want to contact the Vic-Chancellor in the first instance, SS. The scenario you describe sounds unhealthy to say the least.

  7. As a student at Napier, I find it disgusting that he has been allowed to swan about. Especially having him been within metres of me at times it’s sickening Napier has taken him on. I appreciate people commenting about him trying to better himself at life blah blah blah…he is a murderer! End of! 12 year sentence should equal 12 years IN prison! This just carries on the medeocre attitude towards prisoners in Scotland!

  8. Does anyone know what kind of security is provided at uni whilst he is studying?

  9. Some of the comments made by some Napier students just prove the intelligence levels of some of my fellow students. He was obviously put through intensive psychological tests and passed them. Personally I would prefer being around an individual for 2 years in a safe, studious environment than a dangerous individual who will have a greater chance of reoffending in two years time. He will have his liberty in its entirety in two years and if in the two years remaining studying helps him to integrate into society in a positive manner then it should be allowed. Murderer or not, 12 years is the sentence which a Sheriff believed to be a sufficient punishment. Although perhaps people like mum6kids are more qualified to comment on this. And all Scottish students get their fees paid.

  10. As a fellow student of Napier University, I am absolutely disgusted that this guy is allowed to walk amongst us as if he’s done nothing wrong. He swans about with an “entourage” of pathetic admirers like he’s some sort of celebrity and it makes me sick!!
    Napier Student 3: it has absolutely nothing to do with intelligence levels of other students, you have no right to say that. People are entitled to feel intimidated by this and have the right to express their opinions.
    I myself happen to agree with much of what is being said. It makes a mockery of the justice system in this country and an even bigger mockery of Napier University, allowing these sorts of people in here.

    This guy’s getting a second chance at life, as if nothing has happened. His victim and victim’s family will have no such chance….

  11. Thank you for your comments, Jen.

    I’m very interested to hear what you folks at Napier think about this case. It’s certainly one that seems to polarise views and it’s not difficult to see why.

    Cheers, Stu

  12. I think this is a disgrace!!

    he swans around in the libary 5 days a week even on holidays with his “girlfriend”.. have even seen him go away to watch dvds with her god knows what else they are up to , its a disgrace that taxpayers money is funding this brutal murderer.

    If security played a bigger part then would mabye be more comfortable

  13. “Slasher” as he is known is now creeping around Abertay university (do the press know because i know the students dont) up to his old tricks again preying on young female students around the university. This makes me sick ! that a killer again is prowling around ANOTHER Scottish University.

    How can Abertay and the prison service allow this deamon to be in the presence of law abiding students. The fact he is studying law is a disgrace!, as he cannot practice ! both of the above have a duty of care to the students within the premises. I have often watched him hold court with all the immature/ vulnerable females within the confines of the campus.

    How can this monster be allowed to study again in a university after the last fiasco at Napier university? i take it he must be on day release from a prison near by, more waste of good tax payers money,

  14. Interesting last post from Abertay. Whether I agree with the style of rehabilitation or not, will not allow me to gossip about the nature of his contact with other students. I personally know one of them, and she has assured me that it is no more than of a studious relationship as he happens to be a particularly bright and helpful student.

    Gossiping on the nature of his relationships with fellow students at university is pure conjecture and, maybe, just a little bit bigotted.

    I agree he has done wrong and is abiding by his sentence, but any criminal if they wish to leave that life behind them has to start somewhere that will allow them a start when released. If not then the re-offending rate will go through the roof.

  15. Where is this man now? Surely he would have been released by now? I wonder if all of his degrees have made a difference in his life? With a conviction like this I’m sure no matter how many degrees you have macdonalds wouldn’t even entertain that!

  16. This man who talking about is self employed business man now working in Westerhailes area of Edinburgh. I do believe he is walking time bomb.

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