New wave of violent criminals 'is putting public safety at risk'

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The Independent Online

The release from prison of thousands of violent criminals and sex offenders is putting public safety at risk, according to a damning report. A high-profile inquiry to be published this month will show that serious offenders are not being supervised enough before they leave prison, and are not being monitored in the community.

There are an estimated 30,000 people convicted of violent and sexual offences currently living in the community, thousands of whom face inadequate checks or monitoring. The potential threat is raised by a report after an inquiry into the murder of the Chelsea banker John Monckton, which will blame his killing on failings in the monitoring of dangerous offenders.

It will demand that vigorous assessments are carried out on all people serving four years and over in both the run-up to, and in the days after, their release into the community.

There was a public outcry when Mr Monckton, 49, the head of bond dealing at Legal & General, was stabbed to death and his wife left for dead in a robbery at their home in south-west London. Damien Hanson, who carried out the killing, was jailed for life at the Old Bailey and his accomplice, Elliott White, a drug addict, received an 18-year sentence for robbery.

In response, Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, ordered an immediate investigation by the chief inspector of probation. The inquiry's findings reveal a catalogue of errors, which meant Hanson and White were allowed to go unchecked and free to carry out further crimes. White was never brought before court despite failing to attend sessions at a drug treatment clinic on at least 10 occasions.

The report is also critical of the way Hanson, who had already served seven years of a 12-year sentence for attempted murder, was handled. He was not given a proper assessment in the last few months of his sentence, which meant that the information presented at his parole board hearing was inadequate.

It had been planned that he would be sent to a hostel in Essex but this was full and the liaison team appointed to monitor him did not do its job properly. He was given only the lowest level of supervision despite his previous criminal history.

Under the existing system, offenders are graded according to the level of risk they pose. Mr Clarke has promised more monitoring of these offenders who receive only basic supervision.

However, the National Association of Probation Officers says this is not possible unless more money is allocated to recruiting police and probation officers.