Violent offenders wrongly released, inspectors say

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The Independent Online

A review into public safety – after a violent offender, known to the police and probation service, brutally murdered two French students – has found that too many dangerous prisoners are being released without adequate checks or supervision.

The findings follow the case of Daniel Sonnex, who should have been behind bars when he butchered Gabriel Ferez and Laurent Bonomo in their south London flat last year.

In barely half of cases reviewed by the Probation Inspectorate did the work meet the level necessary to ensure the public are well protected. Inspectors found prisoner checks were not being properly carried out and some who posed a danger to the public were wrongly classified as low or medium risk.

Inspection staff judged the identified level of risk of harm was incorrect in 40 cases from 10 London boroughs. Nine of these proved to be an "underestimation" of the risk of serious harm to the public which, the report said, was of "concern". Andrew Bridges, chief inspector of probation, concluded: "The results were somewhat disappointing. We judged that only 54 per cent of the public protection work we examined was of the sufficiently high level of quality we were looking for."

Probation officers are struggling under the pressure of large caseloads, sickness and an unreliable IT system, the report found. After Dano Sonnex's trial, it emerged the probation officer handling the case was deluged with work.