'This monster was made, this monster was facilitated and this monster was given a licence to walk free,' Zara's aunt said
Probation officers have been accused of having “blood on their hands” after failings left a sexual predator free to stalk and kill Zara Aleena just days after his prison release. Damning findings by a watchdog laid bare a catalogue of errors by probation officers before Jordan McSweeney carried out the brutal attack on the aspiring lawyer. Farah Naz called for “action and accountability” in the wake of her niece’s murder as she branded the Probation Service “incompetent”, with “failures by people at the top”. McSweeney, 29, was handed a life sentence and jailed for at least 38 years last month after admitting sexually assaulting and murdering the 35-year-old law graduate in Ilford, east London, in June. Justice Secretary Dominic Raab ordered a review of how probation staff supervised McSweeney – who had a string of convictions and a history of violence – when it emerged he was freed from prison on licence nine days before the murder. In that time, his licence had been revoked after he failed three times to meet probation officers – but he was not recalled to prison. In a report published on Tuesday, chief inspector of probation Justin Russell said McSweeney was not treated as a high-risk offender when he should have been and chances to get him back behind bars sooner were missed. Ms Naz said “heads should roll”, adding that it is “not good enough” that just one worker faced disciplinary action over the case. No-one has been sacked, according to the watchdog’s report.
She said: “Zara’s life was taken and probation have blood on their hands.” When asked whether Ms Aleena could be alive today if probation had acted differently, Ms Naz replied: “Yes, absolutely”, later adding: “Some people need to be accountable here. If you commission a report … you should be acting on it. If I don’t do my job, I don’t deserve my job.” Earlier she warned women and girls “are not safe if probation is not doing its job” as she said reading the report was “extremely distressing”. Although prisons and probation minister Damian Hinds apologised “unreservedly” to Ms Aleena’s family in a statement for the “unacceptable failings” in the case, Ms Naz told the programme: “We need much more than an apology … what we need is action and we need accountability.” Her “funny, clever, beautiful” niece was the “complete antithesis of this man that was given a licence to walk the streets freely”, she added. The report comes just a week after the watchdog revealed another litany of failings by probation officers before Damien Bendall murdered three children and his pregnant partner.
It also follows concerns raised nearly three years ago after serial rapist Joseph McCann carried out a series of sex attacks when he was freed from prison amid major failings by an “unstable” team of inexperienced probation staff. Mr Hinds said the Government was taking “immediate steps” to address the serious concerns raised by the McSweeney and Bendall cases, including “mandatory training to improve risk assessments, implementing new processes to guarantee the swift recall of offenders and we have taken disciplinary action where appropriate”.
Thousands more probation officers will be hired as part of £155 million being spent on the Probation Service to provide “tougher supervision, protect the public and ensure these sorts of tragedies can never happen again,” he added.
The Court of Appeal office confirmed McSweeney has lodged an application for permission to challenge his sentence.
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