Jack Straw apologises for French student murder

By politics.co.uk staff

Justice secretary Jack Straw has apologised for the slip-ups which allowed the man found guilty of murdering two French students to be free.

Gabriel Ferez and Laurent Bonomo, both 23, were murdered in their flat in New Cross in June 2008.

Today, two men – Dano Sonnex, 23, of Peckham, south London, and Nigel Farmer, 33, of no fixed address – were found guilty of murdering them.

The 23-year-olds were tied up and stabbed a total of 244 times after Sonnex and Farmer broke into their flat with the intention of burgling it.

But it can today be revealed that Sonnex should have been recalled to prison 16 days before the murders took place.

The 23-year-old had been jailed for a knife crime attack but allowed out on licence. On June 13th the Ministry of Justice told Lewisham borough police to bring him back into custody.

Despite the request not even being marked as urgent police should have recalled him within 96 hours.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission says it has written to every police service in England and Wales to highlight the issues this “catalogue of failures” has highlighted.

David Scott, the head of the London probation service, has resigned over the failure.

Mr Straw apologised to the families of the victim for that error this morning.

“On behalf of the government, I express my deepest sympathies to the families of Mr Bonomo and Mr Ferez and I am ensuring they receive every possible support,” he said.

“These were the most appalling, sadistic, and gratuitous murders. The direct responsibility for these killings must lie – as the jury found – with the criminals Sonnex and Farmer.

“But it is also the case that Sonnex could and should have been in custody at the time he committed these murders. It was the consequence of very serious failures across the criminal justice system that he had not been arrested and incarcerated some weeks before.”

He continued: “I will personally monitor progress closely until I am satisfied that high standards are being achieved. I will also be making a statement in parliament about this as soon as possible.”

A senior probation officer in London has resigned as a result of the mistakes.

But the Liberal Democrats argued the problem was systemic.

“The administrative errors which lead to Sonnex’s release had tragic consequences. But we must be wary of laying the whole blame on individuals,” said Liberal Democrat justice spokesman David Howarth.

“We know that probation staff in Lewisham, as elsewhere, were overworked and very inexperienced.”

Sentencing is due to take place at the Old Bailey later today