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News Archives: Index

October 7, 2010: Probation Set For Industrial Action

October 5, 2010: Turning Prisoners Into Taxpayers

October 4, 2010: Murder Changes Now In Force

September 20, 2010: Probation Programmes Face Cuts

August 24, 2010: Victorian Poor Law Records Online

August 10, 2010: Justice Job Cuts

July 28, 2010: Prison Violence Growing

July 22, 2010: Police Numbers: Latest Figures

July 22, 2010: New Jurisdiction Rules

July 16, 2010: CCJS On Prison And Probation Spending Under Labour

July 15, 2010: Latest Statistics On Violent And Sexual Crime

July 15, 2010: Latest National Crime Figures

July 15, 2010: New Chief Prisons Inspector

July 14, 2010: Hard Times Ahead For Prisons: Anne Owers

July 14, 2010: Prison Does Not Work: Ken Clarke

July 13, 2010: Criminal Justice Reform: Sentencing and Rehabilitation

July 13, 2010: Criminal Justice Reform Priorities

July 12, 2010: What Price Public Protection, Asks Probation Chief Inspector

July 12, 2010: NOMS has failed, says Napo

July 10, 2010: IPCC To Investigate Death of Raoul Moat

July 9, 2010: Women In Prison: New Report

July 9, 2009: Unjust Deserts: Imprisonment for Public Protection

July 8, 2010: Police Search Powers Change

July 7, 2010: Make 'Legal High' Illegal, Says ACMD

July 2, 2010: Failing Children In Prison

July 2, 2010: Police Buried Under a Blizzard of Guidance: HMIC

July 1, 2010: Freedom To Change The Law?

June 30, 2010: A New Outlook On Penal Reform?

June 30, 2010: Revolving Door Of Offending Must Stop, Says Clarke

June 30, 2010: Ken Clarke: Speech on Criminal Justice Reform

June 29, 2010: No More Police Targets

June 26, 2010: Family Intervention Projects Questioned

June 25, 2010: Cutting Criminal Justice

June 24, 2010: Napo on Sex Offenders Report

June 23, 2010: Closing Courts: The Cuts Begin

June 23, 2010: Strategy To Tackle Gangs

June 15, 2010: Courts and Mentally Disordered Offenders

June 8, 2010: Working With Muslims in Prison

June 1, 2010: Your Chance To Nominate a QC

June 8, 2009: Commons Statement On Sonnex Case

Justice Secretary Jack Straw has made a statement to the House of Commons on the case of the convicted murderer Dano Sonnex, who  killed Laurent Bonomo and Gabriel Ferez. Mr Straw once again states that the case was mishandled not as a result of limited resources, but was rather due to:

"poor judgements and poor management within London Probation, as well as errors by the Metropolitan Police and the Prison Service."

Mr Straw's full statement is published below.

"Last Thursday, Sonnex was convicted with Nigel Farmer of the brutal and sadistic murder of two French students, Laurent Bonomo and Gabriel Ferez. They were killed on 29 June last year at their flat in New Cross in the London Borough of Lewisham."

"I know I speak for the whole House in sending our deepest sympathies to the families of the two young victims of this appalling crime. I have twice met the families and have discussed the case with the French Ambassador. The families will continue to be given every possible support in their time of grief."

"Sonnex was a serious criminal. At the time of the murders he could and should have been in custody."

"The background is as follows. In 2003, Sonnex was sentenced to 8 years’ imprisonment for multiple offences. He behaved violently in prison and admitted to a prison medical officer that his ‘reactions could kill’. He was released from prison on 8 February 2008, the latest date he could lawfully be held in custody, having twice been refused parole. He was on licence, liable to recall, until 11 October."

"On Sonnex′s release, there were serious failings by prison and probation staff. Potentially crucial information such as that from the medical officer (just quoted) was not shared between the prison, police and probation. Sonnex was never adequately assessed for risk, nor considered for Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements, both of which would have resulted in more intensive community supervision."

"Within days of release, Sonnex and another individual were alleged to have tied up a relative and her partner and violently threatened them. The allegations were subsequently withdrawn, so the police pursued the matter no further. Probation staff then judged that this incident merited nothing more than a formal warning. This was clearly a further error. The seriousness of the allegation warranted a revised risk assessment and referral to a Multi-Agency Public Protection panel. This did not take place."

"In the event, Sonnex did comply with his licence requirements until 23 April, when he was arrested for handling stolen goods and remanded in custody. On 3 May, his Offender Manager initiated the process to recall him to prison in light of the alleged offence. However, at a handling stolen goods court hearing on 16 May, Sonnex was granted bail."

"From the record of the hearing it seems that the prosecutor believed Sonnex was being recalled to prison anyway, and consequently did not oppose bail. But exactly what transpired is still not clear. What is clear is that Sonnex should not have been released onto the streets that day."

"The recall process was then poorly handled and subject to unacceptable delay by probation staff. In addition, the police failed to share information with probation which should have altered Sonnex’s risk assessment. The recall was not submitted for approval to the NOMS Public Protection Unit until 12 June, who turned it around promptly and issued the recall revocation notice to the police the next day. The Probation Service labelled the recall as ‘standard’, rather than ‘emergency’, which meant the police target time to return Sonnex to prison was 96 hours instead of 48."

"The execution of the warrant was complicated by police concerns about whether Sonnex had access to firearms. In the event the police did not attempt to serve the warrant and arrest him until 29 June. This was a wholly unacceptable delay, and tragically, too late for Laurent Bonomo and Gabriel Ferez, as it was the same day the murders were committed."

"Mr Speaker, whilst responsibility for the murders lies with the perpetrators alone, the successive failings I have outlined meant that Sonnex was free to kill these young men when he could and should have been locked up."

"This was not a question of poor resources, but of poor judgements and poor management within London Probation, as well as errors by the Metropolitan Police and the Prison Service. As Secretary of State responsible for the Probation and Prison Services, I take responsibility for their failings, and the Metropolitan Police take responsibility for theirs. On behalf of each agency, I have apologised to the families of Laurent Bonomo and Gabriel Ferez and I do so again today."

"Let me now set out the action which has been undertaken since these failures came to light in July last year."

"After the murders, London Probation held an immediate ‘Serious Further Offence’ review into the case. This was competed in October 2008. In light of its findings, a more detailed NOMS investigation was established."

"Having considered this report, I determined with senior officials that the situation in London Probation warranted the most severe intervention statutorily available to me [‘Performance Capability Review’] and that the Chief Officer of London Probation would be suspended pending the results."

"Having been informed of this decision and reviewed the investigation reports, the Chief Officer very honourably accepted responsibility for the failures and resigned on 27 February. Pending recruitment of a permanent replacement, I approved the appointment of an experienced former Chief Officer, Paul Wilson, to lead London Probation from March."

"Meanwhile, London Probation conducted disciplinary investigations into the staff directly responsible for managing Sonnex, which determined that the failings were due to factors beyond their control. As a result, one individual received mandatory retraining, but no formal disciplinary action was taken."

"Separately, in July 2008 the Metropolitan Police referred the case to the Independent Police Complaints Commission. The Met has accepted both the IPCC’s subsequent recommendations, and the Home Secretary will ensure that they are urgently implemented by every force. One police officer received a disciplinary warning. The Met now has a unit in each Borough dedicated to arresting wanted offenders. It has also put in place revised systems, with other agencies, to improve information-sharing and ensure the identification and timely arrest of such offenders."

"In February this year, I agreed following the Chief Officer’s departure that London Probation’s performance should be subjected to the most intensive scrutiny available [‘Directed Improvement’]. London Probation are also taking steps to provide far greater senior level scrutiny and prioritisation of high risk offenders. The new London Director of Offender Management will report monthly to my HF the Prisons and Probation Minister on progress, and my HF will update Parliament in the autumn. "

"In March, I asked Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Probation Andrew Bridges to conduct a series of case inspections in London. Mr Bridges has completed the inspection covering Greenwich and Lewisham, where Sonnex was managed, and has published his findings. Further reports will be published in the coming months. If I am not satisfied there has been significant progress, I will not hesitate to intervene again.

"Finally, every probation area in the country has been instructed urgently to re-examine the way they manage offenders presenting a risk of harm, in light of the failings in this case."

"All of the investigation reports were published last Thursday as soon as the verdicts were known. Their recommendations have been accepted in full. Copies of the Serious Further Offence review, the NOMS report, the Chief Inspector of Probation’s report and a London Criminal Justice Board report are available in the Vote Office and the House Library. "

"Mr Speaker, the failings in the Sonnex case are a matter of profound sorrow and regret to everyone concerned. It is, however, important in considering this case that we do not unduly tarnish the work of all those dedicated professionals who deal every day with some of the most dangerous and unpredictable individuals in our society."

"But nor were these failures the result of a lack of resources. Probation funding has increased by 70% in real terms since 1997. London Probation underspent its £154 million budget by £3.5 million last year. Rather, this was a failure to use resources effectively."

"When serious offenders are released into the community having completed their sentence, there will always be some risk that they will offend again. However, the criminal justice system has a duty to manage and minimise that risk."

"Where the system failed in this case, action has been taken. I will personally be monitoring progress until I am satisfied standards have improved. The safety of the public and the memory of the two young men whose lives were so brutally taken demand no less."

"I commend this statement to the House."