A DECISION to release a brute who attacked one victim before battering another, leaving her with a fractured skull, has been branded “a joke”.

Anthony Finnigan, 26, was sentenced to a total of three years and eight months behind bars after being found guilty of the vicious attacks.

However, he is now free to walk the streets again, having served less than 23 months.

Shocking photographs of injuries suffered by Rhona Macleod, who was one of Finnigan’s victims, show the extent of the beatings he dished out.

One of Ms Macleod’s close friends contacted the Barrhead News to slam the decision to release him.

“I think the fact he’s back out is a joke,” said the friend, who asked not to be named.

“He was only locked up for a little more than a year and ten months. Shoplifters can get longer than that.

“It’s not a proper sentence for what he put my friend through. She had a fractured skull and a bleed to the brain.

“I want people to see what he did to her, so they know what he’s capable of.”

Finnigan, who grew up in Neilston, was found guilty of three offences committed on August 12 or August 13, 2019.

He assaulted one victim in Ardgowan Street, Paisley, before subjecting Ms Macleod to a terrifying ordeal at another property in the town later that night.

Finnigan was held on remand after being arrested and went on trial at the High Court in Glasgow in late May and early June this year.

He was convicted of assaulting his first victim to her injury and permanent disfigurement, as well as assaulting Ms Macleod to her severe injury, permanent disfigurement and danger to life and attempting to defeat the ends of justice.

Finnigan appeared at the High Court in Paisley earlier this month for sentencing and, although a jail term of more than three years was imposed, he was soon freed, having been detained since his arrest.

He is believed to have returned to the Barrhead area but will be subject to a Supervised Release Order for the next year.

Ms Macleod’s friend said that, although the physical wounds Finnigan caused have healed, the mental scars remain.

“My friend has got bad anxiety now,” she explained. “She is scared to leave her house.

“She was fine before because he was locked up behind bars but now she knows he is back out there, just walking about.”

A Judicial Communications spokeswoman said: “When deciding a sentence, a judge will always carefully consider the facts that are presented to the court both by the defence and by the prosecution, and will always take into account the unique factors of each case.

“A judge will carefully consider the circumstances of the particular offence; any impact on a victim and the circumstances of the offender.

“Judges must also have regard to the Scottish Sentencing Council guidelines on sentencing.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Prison Service said: “It’s not us who decides how long somebody is in jail. It’s the court and it’s something that confuses a lot of people because I think it’s perfectly natural if you hear that somebody has got a sentence of three years, you are not expecting to see them after 18 months but you will.

“Now, they could be called back into jail at any time before the expiry of their sentence if they do something else wrong, so if somebody has a breach of peace or something like that they can be brought back into jail to serve the outstanding part of their previous sentence but it is normal that people get early release.”