June 4, 2009: Napo On Ferez and Bonomo Murders
Probation unionNapo have issued a statement on the homicides of Gabriel Ferez and Laurent Bonomo. They were horrifically killed on 29th June 2008. One of the accused, Daniel Sonnex, was on non-parole licence.
The licence commenced on 8th February 2008. On 1st May he was arrested and charged with handling stolen goods, and remanded in custody. He was subsequently bailed on 16th May and went missing. Recall proceedings were completed by mid-June but the police were unable to locate him.
The standards of supervision of any individual who is charged with a further serious offence, who is on licence, are automatically the subject of a Serious Further Offence (SFO) enquiry. This enquiry examines in detail the practice and decisions made by staff involved in the case. In Napo’s view it is rare for there to be any direct link between faults and mistakes found and preventing the crime. Nevertheless the individual members of staff in this case have been severely criticised in the reports.
Harry Fletcher, Assistant General Secretary of Napo, said:
“These were savage murders. However the decisions made by individuals involved in supervision were based on information available at the time. Had staff known that the individual on supervision was to go on and commit a horrific murder then obviously the decisions would have been different."
"The officer involved in direct supervision in this case was newly qualified yet had 127 cases at the time of the murder. Fifty of these were medium-risk in the community. The senior officer was carrying the work of two and half people. Managers were equally under pressure from overwork and multiple responsibilities. It was the Ministry not the Chief Officer who controlled budgets and training."
"The supervision occurred in Lewisham. No probation officers working in that borough had more than two years post qualification experience. There were two senior officers when there should have been five. There were high sickness rates, overwork and stress and not surprisingly in the autumn of 2008 a group grievance was taken out - which is still unresolved.”
“If staff had received the same level of supervision, attention and inspection as conducted by the inquiry, during 2008, then matters may have been different. Blaming individuals avoids the acceptance of political responsibility. Ministers should either fund the criminal justice system and allow probation officers to do their jobs properly or stop claiming that they are protecting the public."
"This case was appalling but does illustrate the stresses and strains facing courts, probation and police and that cuts to services are hampering their ability to carry out their day to day duties. The absence of an integrated IT system hindered communication. The collapse of the government’s C-NOMIS system, which would have helped the process, meant staff resorting to legacy systems, the phone and fax, to vainly try and get information to complete assessments."
"There were contradictions because of prison overcrowding, the courts were under pressure to bail when they could and probation to only recall to custody if necessary and after strenuous reviews. The cost of NOMS bureaucracy has soared since its inception in 2004 to more than £1 billion per annum. More is now spent on administering the NOMS hierarchy than the entire expenditure on the Probation Service in England and Wales."
Jack Straw has stated that the Probation Service does not have a resource crisis and that the case illustrates management failure. He cites a 70% increase in budgets since 1997 and a £17 million underspend last year.
Harry Fletcher added:
“Probation did receive additional funds over the last decade, but it did not result in extra probation officers. The number of probation officers fell by 9% over the period. The money was spent on failed IT, consultants and huge increases in bureaucracy. The underspend last year was not a surplus, but held over to fund this year’s redundancies."
"It is extraordinary that the government is implementing a 20% cut across the Probation Service over the next three years. Also, it is outrageous that over 50% of trainee probation officers qualifying this year will not get jobs. This is a waste of talent and taxpayers’ money. Commonsense decrees that the cuts are bound to lead to even less rigorous supervision, more crime, more victims and more public protection compromises.”