Rapist was released to kill after a series of blunders

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The Independent Online

A convicted rapist who murdered a woman months after being let out of jail was too dangerous to have been released, a scathing official report has concluded.

The report uncovered a series of further blunders that allowed Anthony Rice to roam with little supervision after his release on licence. At one point his curfew was relaxed to allow him to attend a pub quiz, even though he had committed his previous offence after drinking.

Rice, 49, had been convicted of offences including rape, indecent assault and threats to kill, dating back to 1972. He received a life sentence in 1989 for attempted rape, indecent assault and actual bodily harm. He was released after serving 16 years.

Nine months after his release, he struck up a friendship with Naomi Bryant, a 40-year-old single mother. He strangled and stabbed her to death in Winchester last August.

Shortly before the murder Rice - said to have a deep-seated loathing of women - had attacked a random passer-by, but had not been caught.

Andrew Bridges, the Chief Inspector of Probation, said there had been "substantial deficiencies" in the way Rice was supervised by probation staff, police and other officials following his release. He also raised the possibility that officials had been sidetracked into considering Rice's human rights rather than their duty to protect the public.

Mr Bridges added: "In any case he was too dangerous to be released into the community in the first place. The public is entitled to an explanation about how that happened."

He complained of a "succession of specific mistakes, misjudgements and miscommunications". Prison chiefs failed to pass on files about his previous offences against women and girls. They then made the "misjudgement based on insufficient evidence" to move him to an open prison, which created a "momentum towards release".

The decision by the Parole Board to release him on licence came after "cautiously encouraging but ultimately over-optimistic reports of Anthony Rice's progress under treatment". Rice was sent to the Elderfield hostel in Otterbourne, Hampshire, where there are no door or window alarms, and residents are given their own keys.

While Rice was staying there on temporary release, one condition of his licence was that he did not drink alcohol or enter pubs. But on at least two occasions he went for a drink with other hostel residents. His final licence for release had 12 conditions, including a curfew and a ban on approaching lone women without his probation officer's approval. But several conditions suffered from a "lack of clarity", making them hard to enforce and breaches difficult to prove.

In February 2005 Rice's solicitor argued that two of the conditions of his licence - restricting him to the Otterbourne area and banning him from approaching women - contravened his human rights. Although the panel decided not to remove the conditions, the report notes that "again more attention was paid in the meeting to the fairness and proportionality of the restrictive interventions rather than their effectiveness in keeping risk of harm to a minimum".

John Reid, the Home Secretary, said he was prepared to produce fresh legislation to toughen the supervision of offenders.