'Culture of complacency' in criminal justice system

The criminal justice system was condemned for its "culture of complacency" tonight.

An official investigation into a horrific murder on-board a London bus by a chip-throwing schizophrenic revealed a "lackadaisical" attitude towards criminals who commit offences on bail.

The report also revealed that only 46 prisons out of 140 in England and Wales have access to the Police National Computer (PNC).

It meant Anthony Joseph was freed from jail - even though there was an outstanding warrant for his arrest - and was free to kill Richard Whelan after the 28-year-old tried to stop him throwing chips at his girlfriend.

The report by criminal justice watchdogs criticised the criminal justice system's "lackadaisical or nonchalant" attitude to many aspects of the case, with these failings combining to culminate in Mr Whelan's death.

It said: "There seems to be too ready an acceptance of the commission of offences while on bail, insufficient rigour in respect of checking the validity of proposed bail conditions, and an apparent acceptance of the continual breach of bail conditions."

Shadow justice secretary Nick Herbert said: "This report is a damning indictment of a culture of complacency towards bail.

"Reform is needed so that bail conditions are properly enforced and defendants know that breaches will result in immediate action.

"It is also a further tragic example of how the Government's IT failures in the criminal justice system have put members of the public at risk."

He added: "Gordon Brown signalled a review of bail in January, but his officials still haven't published a consultation paper.

"While this Government once again dithers, Conservatives have published detailed proposals to tighten the bail laws and put public safety first."

Joseph, also known as Anthony Peart, was sent to Broadmoor secure hospital in December.

He admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility after being formally acquitted of murder when two trials failed to produce verdicts.

The incident on the top deck of a No 43 bus in Holloway, north London, took place just hours after his release from prison in July 2005.

Today's report recommended that ministers should look at giving prisons "enhanced access" to the PNC so they have full information about individual inmates, and whether there are outstanding charges or warrants.

It noted that the same recommendation was made in 2006 by the inquiry into the racist murder of inmate Zahid Mubarek at Feltham young offenders institution.

"The Prison Service has submitted a business case requesting extended access to what is available for viewing," today's report said.

"This is still outstanding with no response to date.

"We recognise that there are considerable resource implications for the National Offender Management Service if the level of PNC checks were to be increased."

Joseph was repeatedly bailed to a non-existent address in Camden, north London, by magistrates in London and Liverpool, where he was arrested for burglary in April 2005.

The inspectors found no evidence that the authorities had checked whether the address was suitable or even genuine.

They detailed a succession of examples where information about Joseph was incomplete or not correctly passed between different agencies.

"We have to conclude that throughout the various court hearings, the approach to the verification of bail conditions to assure the magistrates that they could safely bail the defendant was lacking in rigour," the inspectors' report said.

It recommended new systems should be devised so courts have "sufficient information ... to make an informed decision".

Police should also draw up new guidelines to ensure offenders are made to comply with bail conditions, and that information is shared between forces, the report went on.

Joseph, 23, had nine convictions between 2001 and the year of the manslaughter.

None was for violent crimes although there was one for possessing an offensive weapon.

The report said: "We have found nothing to suggest that the criminal justice agencies should have been aware that the defendant was likely to commit an offence of extreme violence or that he was suffering from an extreme mental illness."

"However, what we have found is what may best be described as a lackadaisical or nonchalant approach within the criminal justice system to many routine aspects of the handling of cases, the cumulative effect of which was to lead to the sequence of events which culminated on July 29, 2005.

"The lack of diligence in verifying suggested bail conditions, scant evidence of enforcement of those conditions and a failure to deal effectively with breaches when they occurred, all contributed to events taking the course they did.

"This was compounded by a lack of communication between the agencies in the various parts of the country."

Solicitor General Vera Baird said a new working group had been set up to examine the recommendations.

"The Government very much regrets the death of Richard Whelan and thanks the chief inspectors for their work, and we are determined to learn lessons from this," she said.

Sandra Sullivan, a founder member of charity Victims' Voice, whose daughter was killed by a schizophrenic woman, said: "I would like a panel set up to look into recommendations from reports like this, and make sure they are implemented.

"I hate it when people say 'Lessons will be learned'.

"The criminal justice system is indifferent, and they carry on doing their jobs without regard for the future.

"This kind of criminal behaviour is repetitive and predictable.

"I want to see accountability when things go wrong."

HM Inspectors of the Crown Prosecution Service, Constabulary, Court Administration and Prisons carried out the report at the request of three government ministers.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £45,000

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a solutions / s...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific