4 in 10 Prisoners Released Without being Risk Assessed

Shortcomings in the way police, probation and prisons work to protect the public from released criminals have been exposed. A report by three criminal justice watchdogs showed the risk to the public presented by offenders had not been analysed by the time of their release in four out of 10 cases.

Sometimes there were ‘very lengthy delays’ in completing the work after an offender had been freed, it added.

The report by chief probation inspector Andrew Bridges, jails watchdog Anne Owers and chief inspector of constabulary Sir Ronnie Flanagan was commissioned after the probation service came under fire for failing to keep proper tabs on freed offenders who went on to kill and commit other serious crimes.

Ex-prisoner Damien Hanson stabbed financier John Monckton to death at his family home in Chelsea, west London, in November 2004 while on probation.

Later, Anthony Rice brutally murdered mother-of-one Naomi Bryant just nine months after he was freed from a 16-year jail term.

Today’s joint report looked more widely at the links between police, prisons and probation and concluded that co-operation must improve.

“Police were not always advised of releases on temporary licence, which meant that they had no input into these temporary licence conditions,” it said.

“In a fifth of cases of prisoners just starting their sentence, and just over a third of those prisoners about to be released, we found little evidence of positive, proactive and timely work between prisons, probation and police.”

Some prisons failed to refer to other agencies before setting the level at which prisoners should be monitored in the community, the report said, describing the practice as “worrying”.

It highlighted failings in analysing the risk posed by some of the most dangerous offenders.

The study said: “In only half of the relevant probation cases had a comprehensive risk management plan been completed on high and very high risk of harm offenders within five working days of their release from prison.”

There was a very patchy picture’ in the way agencies manage offenders who were a high risk, it added.

Chief inspector of probation Mr Bridges said: “In general, our findings reveal many encouraging examples of effective work, but there was a clear need for improvement in about one-third of the case work we looked at last year.

“While it will never be possible to eliminate risk when an offender is being managed in the community, it is right to expect the work to be done to a consistently high standard.”

The inspection took place in late 2005 and in eight probation areas – County Durham, Derbyshire, Hampshire, Kent, Lancashire, Newham in London, North Wales and Suffolk – and nine prisons – Wymott, Acklington, Maidstone, Durham, Altcourse, Elmley, Wandsworth, Canterbury and Frankland.