Questions for prison system after notorious armed robber Sean Bradish is sent back to prison following a string of crimes committed while he was on day release


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The Independent Online

As one half of the notorious Bradish brothers, Sean typically celebrated one of his many successful armed robberies with a smile for the camera and a bottle of champagne in his hand. They spent their loot on cars, Caribbean holidays and drugs. But after 10 years of austerity at her Majesty’s Pleasure following the inconvenience of being caught, Bradish, one of Britain’s most prolific bank robbers, claimed to have learned the error of his ways.

In a meeting with his probation worker in March last year, he complained about his notoriety and how the constant pressure of surveillance from the Flying Squad had dogged his life. “That was then, this is now,” he said at the meeting. He said he was a reformed man.

What the probation officer did not know was that hours before, Bradish, 46, was holding a gun to the back of a bank customer’s head and threatening to kill her unless staff shoved money into his bag. It was the latest in a string of solo raids that started before he had even been released from prison.

Officers believe that he was trying to build up a nest egg to celebrate the later release from prison of his older brother, and former partner-in-crime, Vincent – to pay for the mother of all parties after a decade inside.

As Bradish was sentenced to three life terms yesterday, the prison and parole system faced criticism after it emerged that the first four of his raids were committed while he was on day release or weekend leave from an open prison in preparation for his release and rehabilitation into society.

In a parole board report, he was praised for taking the opportunity to “rebuild relations with close friends and family” and stated there was no evidence of concerning behaviour or association with criminal associates.

The reality was that he was about to embark on a brutal series of armed robberies. In the first, he grabbed £8,500 from a branch of Lloyds TSB on 12 April.

He was on day release from prison with a 10-hour limit before he was due to return. He turned up some 12 hours late at HMP Spring Hill, a category B prison in Buckinghamshire, but few questions appeared to have been asked why he was so late and was allowed to continue on the scheme, the Old Bailey heard.

The Ministry of Justice has already launched a review over the day-release scheme after a violent career criminal on day release stabbed a pensioner to death who intervened in the robbery of an elderly neighbour. Ian McLoughlin was jailed for life last year, the third time he had been sentenced to life for killing a man.

Justice Minister Jeremy Wright said: “Like everyone else, I am horrified by cases of offenders out on temporary licence who have been charged with very serious offences which is why we are reviewing the current processes as a matter of urgency. Release on licence can be an important tool in preparing offenders for their release from prison — but it must not be done at the expense of public safety.”

Bradish went on to commit three further robberies while on short-term release, hitting the same bank four times in 10 months. In one of the raids, Bradish told staff: “You fucking bastards, you’re robbing the public,” the Old Bailey heard. In another, a small child was seen within feet of Bradish as he brandished a firearm at staff.

The raids increased in regularity with two banks hit within a week of his brother being released. Sean and Vincent, 52, were jailed for life in 2002 after one of their gang turned supergrass and detailed how their prolific operations made them one the most wanted gangs in Britain. He told how successful raids turned into days of drink and drug-fuelled excess.

However, the decade in jail had stripped Bradish of his high-rolling lifestyle and on his release moved into a hostel in northwest London. He was identified as a suspect for the rash of bank raids after the Metropolitan Police’s Flying Squad searched databases for every white man arrested for such robberies since 1995.

They eventually came up with Bradish – and tied in his day release dates to some of the raids - and put him under surveillance before his final robbery two days before his brother was due to be released from prison.

Aware he might have been watched, Bradish emerged from his flat in Shoot Up Hill, Kilburn, and walked backwards to try to see if anyone was following him. He even leapt off a train just as the doors closed to try to throw police off the scent before he stole more than £13,000 in one of his swift raids.

He fled in his girlfriend’s Mercedes, then changed to a minicab which was stopped by armed police who discovered the money in the car. He was sentenced yesterday to three life sentences after admitting six robberies and one attempted robbery over 11 months.

Detective Sergeant Ben Kennedy said: “Bradish’s offending escalated over a period of 11 months, with him becoming more brazen as time went on. Bradish showed blatant disregard for the restrictions imposed on him and had he not been caught when he did I have no doubt he would have carried on offending.”