The Government and National Probation Service have been criticised for not doing enough to prevent crimes committed whilst offenders are released on probation. The HM Inspectorate of Probation has said that Serious Further Offences reviews (“SFO”) could help prevent further tragedies like the London Bridge terror attack.

The critical report says that the Government and NPS are not going far enough in making changes to learn from mistakes that have led to serious crimes being committed by offenders who are under supervision for crimes including murder, rape and other violent offences.

SFO reviews are triggered when an offender is charged with the most serious crimes, including murder, manslaughter, rape and child sexual abuse, whilst the offender is being supervised in the community by the probation service.

There have been a number of SFOs in the media in the last year, including the serial rapist Joseph McCann and the London Bridge terrorist Usman Khan, who both committed serious further offences whilst under probation service.

Inspectors have found that a fifth of SFO reviews failed to give a clear judgment as to whether all reasonable steps had been taken to manage the risk of serious harm.

Furthermore, the SFO reviews were not analysed nationally to identify themes, which could have improved policy and practice. Staff shortages have led to backlogs and delays. The Prison and Probation Service quality assurance process should take 20 days but is taking an average of six months.

The Chief Inspector of Probation, Justin Russell, has said: “At a national level, more needs to be done to identify trends and themes to drive changes to probation policies and guidance. Until this work is done, the government and probation services are not doing enough to learn from past mistakes. Lessons must be learned to prevent more tragedies in the future.”

Farleys Solicitors recently acted on behalf of the family of Michael Hoolickin in connection with the inquest into his death. Michael was murdered by a Prolific and Priority Offender who was under the supervision of the National Probation Service at the time of his death. The offender repeatedly breached his licence conditions but was not recalled to prison prior to the fatal incident resulting in Michael’s death. The inquest into Michael’s tragic death has revealed a number of missed opportunities by the NPS to ensure that appropriate systems were in place, and steps were taken to ensure that this offender was being monitored properly and complying with his licence conditions to ensure the safety of the public.

Full details of Michael’s case can be found here.

Inspectors have concluded there is a ‘culture of fear’ which undermines the review process. Staff view the process negatively and believe that it is used to attribute blame. Individual probation officers often do not see the final SFO reports and have limited opportunities to question the findings.

An independent review is being conducted into the case of McCann by the Chief Inspector of Probation and the first part of that report will be published in June.

Farleys Solicitors has been instructed to pursue claims on behalf of McCann’s victims to bring claims for damages against the Probation Service for negligence, breach of duty and breach of the Human Rights Act.

Jonathan Bridge, Abuse Specialist discusses the McCann case further in this blog.

To speak to a specialist in criminal injuries compensation claims or representation at inquest, contact Farleys Solicitors on 0845 287 0939 or contact us by email.