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  1. ITV Report

'Woefully inadequate' probation service criticised by coroner in Conner Marshall inquest

Conner Marshall was beaten to death after being mistaken for a love rival by David Braddon Credit: Family photo

The probation service supervising a man who went on to murder 18-year-old Conner Marshall has been described as ''woefully inadequate.''

Conner Marshall, 18, was beaten to death by David Braddon after he mistook him for his estranged partner's former boyfriend. Braddon was being supervised in the community after being convicted of assaulting a police officer and drug offences.

On the final day of the inquest into Conner's death, Coroner Nadim Bashir concluded Conner was killed unlawfully, but his death could not have been avoided.

However, Mr Bashir said the probation officer in charge of supervising Braddon was ''overwhelmed'' by her caseload.

David Braddon pleaded guilty to the murder of Conner Marshall Credit: South Wales Police

Probation service officer Kathryn Oakley told the inquest in Pontypridd that at the time of Conner's murder in 2015, she was supervising Braddon as one of around 60 other cases.

During questioning, Ms Oakley described a work environment that was overwhelming and overstretched.

But the Coroner said Ms Oakley accepted “she could have done more in the supervision and management of David Braddon.”

Conner Marshall died in the University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff, in 2015. Credit: Family photo

Community Rehabilitation Company, the private company supervising Braddon, was described as "woefully inadequate" by the coroner in their support and management of Ms Oakley.

Describing Kathryn Oakley, the Coroner said, "In my judgement, she was a 'brand new' probation service officer with no experience of probation work at all."

As a new employee, he said Kathryn Oakley was ''failed.''

Responding to the coroner's findings, Napo, the Trade Union for Probation and Family Court Staff, said they had raised serious concerns over the efficiency of Community Rehabilitation Company Working Links.

It said members had ''consistently complained about excessive workloads.''

The Ministry Of Justice and a number of ministers were warned time and time again that the Working Links CRC contract was failing on every level.

Probation reports repeatedly slammed the company for its failure to deliver on even the basic level of service despite a huge taxpayer funded bail out, and yet nothing was done to revoke the contract.

While our members are all too often being singled out by employers for alleged failures, the MOJ and the NPS are still not addressing systemic problems within the service and their privately owned CRC providers.

We know that workloads across the board are simply not manageable and this has a direct impact on the ability of staff to protect the public and manage risk.

– Ian Lawrence, Napo General Secretary
Conner Marshall's family

In response, Ian Barrow from the National Probation Service said, “This was an awful crime and our thoughts remain with Conner Marshall’s family and friends.

“While the coroner found Conner’s death could not have been avoided, there is no doubt David Braddon’s probation supervision was not good enough.

“We have now taken responsibility for managing all offenders on licence in Wales from the Community Rehabilitation Company and 800 more probation officers are in training across England and Wales which will help to improve public protection."

Concluding the inquest, Coroner Nadim Bashir ruled that Conner was unlawfully killed.

Despite his criticisms of the probation service, he said: ''I am satisfied there was no possible or even probable evidential link that led to Conner Marshall's death.

''Put simply, his death could not have been foreseen or predicted let alone prevented on the evidence before more.''

Richard Marshall and his wife Nadine say they have had to fight for answers since Conner's death

Speaking to ITV News for the first time since his son's death, Richard Marshall said the trauma of what happened to Conner will always haunt them.

''"You love your kids forever and I'll miss my child forever. You never stop loving your kids til the day you die", Richard said.

“I've got to keep going for my family. For my wife and my other two children.”

After the inquest, Conner's mother Nadine said the inquest was the ''culmination of five years of struggle.''