Killer Missed In Fresh Home Office Blunder
The Home Office was rocked by a new debacle over prisoners last night as it emerged that a British gangster whose convictions for violent offences abroad were not entered on the police national computer committed an execution-style killing on his return to Britain.
The revelation raises serious questions about whether the public would have been better protected if the offences in Switzerland and Germany had been recorded electronically and shared with police. It comes five days after ministers admitted the records of thousands of British criminals who had offended abroad had not been entered into the police database.
The news that, of the 540 most serious offenders identified by police, one has gone on to kill is likely to be followed by further disturbing examples.
Dale Miller, 43, a career criminal and a member of an organised crime gang operating out of Newcastle upon Tyne, was jailed for a series of armed robberies in Switzerland and Germany, only to return to the UK shortly before 2000.
Miller’s serious offences abroad should have been put on the police database immediately, allowing him to be monitored by police intelligence units, but, say Home Office sources, his foreign records were instead left buried in files lying around the department.
Miller’s offences in Switzerland and Germany – kept by Interpol – were only placed on the computer database in September 2001, a full year after he shot Freddie Knights at point blank range and nearly five months after he was arrested. Miller was sentenced in 2002 to 16 years for Knights’ manslaughter.
‘This demonstrates in starker terms the gravity of the government’s failure,’ said the shadow Home Secretary, David Davis. ‘Far from fixing the problems that stop the Home Office protecting the public, under John Reid’s regime they are only discovered by accident.’
At his trial, the court heard that Miller was one of three men who took part in a ‘cruel and callous’ gangland killing, shooting Knights in the head outside his mother’s home in Newcastle in September 2000. The judge told Miller, who committed a spate of crimes committed in the Eighties in the UK that were recorded on the police database, that ‘at close range, your victim had no chance’.
The news that at least one dangerous offender’s serious crimes committed abroad were not registered with police until after he had committed manslaughter is likely to intensify pressure on the Home Office.
‘This is the final nail in the coffin for whatever credibility Tony Blair’s government had on law and order,’ said Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrats’ home affairs spokesman. ‘All we’ve got is chaos and an increased danger to the public.’
The probation officers’ union, Napo, last night claimed public protection teams believe they have established between 80 and 120 of the most serious offenders have been reconvicted.
‘This is a serious failing,’ said Harry Fletcher, Napo’s assistant general secretary. ‘Hundreds of individuals convicted of serious offences abroad should have been assessed by police and probation but the relevant information was not passed on. It now seems scores have been reconvicted, some for very serious crimes.’
Yesterday the Home Office disclosed that a four-day trawl of the 540 serious offenders had identified five individuals with convictions abroad that the Criminal Records Bureau should have known about, all of whom had applied for jobs requiring vetting – two as carers, two as sports coaches and one as a foster carer.
None was a sex offender, but four had convictions for drugs and one for assisting illegal entry to Britain – not necessarily enough to stop them getting a job, but information their employers should have had. Another individual cleared by the bureau committed an indecency offence abroad three years later which was not logged on the computer. His present employers have now been told: Home Office sources said it was believed the vetting related to a part-time position he no longer held.
Another nine offenders whose names match individuals applying for CRB checks, but whom police cannot be sure are the same people, are now having their employers contacted. None were violent or sexual offenders.
John Reid, the Home Secretary, said he was disclosing the information to reassure the public following fears that paedophiles could have got access to jobs with children as a result of the records blunder.
However Davis said: ‘The fact he thinks approving people with drugs offences to work with youngsters will reassure the public shows just how out of touch he is.’
A senior Home Office civil servant was yesterday appointed to lead an inquiry into the Home Office failure to properly record criminals’ convictions abroad.
Dale Miller: Why the Home Office failed
1980s: Miller commits a series of crimes and becomes well known to police forces in the North of England. He then disappears
1990s: Miller takes part in a series of armed robberies in Europe, two in Switzerland, in 1992 and 1994, and one in Germany in 1998. He is sentenced to an undisclosed prison sentence for offences involving violence and firearms.
Pre-2000: Miller is freed from prison and returns to Britain. His details recorded by Interpol should be entered automatically on the police national computer. This does not happen.
September 2000: Miller shoots Freddie Knights in the head outside Knights’ mother’s home in Newcastle upon Tyne, killing him.
May 2000: Miller is arrested for Knights’ killing, along with several others.
September 2001: The police unearth Interpol files recording his violent crimes. The files are then entered on to the police national computer database. The Home Office pre-warning system has failed.
September 2002: Miller is sentenced to 16 years for Knights’ manslaughter.
11 January 2007: The Home Office sends out a circular to all probation teams asking for information on 540 serious offenders believed to have committed crimes abroad whose details were not entered on the national computer.
14 January: The Observer reveals Miller’s offences and the Home Office system’s failure.