Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Probation Must Be Made to Work

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Probation Must Be Made to Work

Article excerpt

IN recent years there have been a number of brutal murders carried out in London by men supposed to be under the strict supervision of the police and probation service at the time. The financier, John Monckton was stabbed to death in front of his wife; Naomi Bryant was killed by a freed sex attackers.

But these killings are not isolated instances of incompetence on the part of the probation service: as we report today, more than 60 violent crimes by such men, including murder and rape, were carried out in Britain last year, according to Home Office figures.

Of course this figure constitutes only a small minority of released criminals: in London alone, around 5,500 freed convicts are under probation service supervision. Of these, 40 are extremely high risk, with a further 2,652 who are sufficiently dangerous to require intensive monitoring by more than one agency. But more than 61 killings and rapes by men who should have been under the strictest supervision is still far too many. And the assurances that follow every inquest, that the Home Secretary's highest priority is public protection, will come as little consolation to traumatised victims, and bereaved families.

In London, there has been an increase of over a third in the number of sex offenders who have been convicted of failing to comply with their duty to notify police about their changes of address or other details - in other words, making their supervision difficult or impossible. Across all offences, there has been a seven per cent increase in the number of offenders breaching the conditions of their release.

The system can be made to work, but that there should be a stricter implementation of the new violent offenders orders against high-risk ex-convicts.

But in some cases, dangerous criminals simply should not be released at all, let alone as early as they are. The introduction of "indeterminate" sentences for such offenders is a start, and should be more widely used, if the protection of the public is genuinely the priority of the justice system.

Lunch power THERE HAS been a small but important victory for parent power in Hammersmith, where the John Betts primary school is to get a new kitchen able to prepare more food on site. …

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