‘Cumulative failure’ led to murder on parole

A “cumulative failure” across the whole criminal justice system allowed a convicted rapist to commit a brutal murder while out on license, a new report finds.

Chief inspector of probation Andrew Bridges said that Anthony Rice, who murdered Naomi Bryant at her Winchester home last summer, was too dangerous and should never have been released in the first place.

But his report also criticises the way Rice was supervised once he was released, saying the probation services had put too much focus on his human rights and failed to attach sufficient priority to public safety.

“Our conclusion about this case is that there were substantial deficiencies in the way Rice was supervised, but in any case he was too dangerous to be released into the community in the first place,” Mr Bridges said.

“The public is entitled to an explanation about how that happened, and our account has shown that a succession of specific mistakes, misjudgments and miscommunications at all three phases of Rice’s life sentence had a compounding effect that amounted to what we have called a cumulative failure.”

Rice had been sentenced to a discretionary life sentence for attempted rape in 1989 and, after serving more than 15 years, was released on life license in November 2004.

Considered a high-risk offender because of his history of serious sexual attacks, including rape and other assaults, he was put under what should have been close supervision by the Hampshire multi-agency public protection arrangements (MAPPA).

However, on August 17th 2005, he went to the home of Ms Bryant, a 40-year-old mother, and strangled and stabbed her. He was convicted of murder in October.

Home secretary John Reid said he took today’s report extremely seriously, and would introduce new laws if necessary to improve the management of offenders.

His predecessor, Charles Clarke, recently announced a range of measures to deal with the problem following a similarly critical report about the murder of City financier John Monckton by a man out on early release, and Mr Reid said he would implement these.

They include a new violent offenders register, similar to that which currently exists for sex offenders, backed up by Asbo-style supervisory orders, and changes to how long prisoners on early release should be kept on license.

Barrie Crook, the chief officer of the Hampshire probation area, also accepted the report, saying more should have been done to manage the risks Rice posed, while the Probation Board said it was “vitally important” to learn the lessons from this case.

However, the Conservatives said the report showed the government was “putting the public at risk” by releasing prisoners too early, and through its emphasis on human rights.

“When the government describes someone as being under close supervision the public has a right to believe that its safety will be protected – this is clearly not true,” said shadow home secretary David Davis.

“As the chief inspector of probation himself implies, the government’s interpretation of its own laws on human rights have quite improperly been allowed to undermine public safety.”