Monday 7 October 2019

Why are high risk offenders being released?

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One in five murders in the UK are committed by prisoners who are rereleased on parole.  A failure in the probation service to oversee prisoners properly after their release has led to killings by ex-inmates soaring by 63 per cent since 2015. Figures show that at the end of March 2017, as many as 112 of the 613 killings were committed by ex-cons after they were released on parole. 'This is an extremely worrying development.  Two women per week in England and Wales are killed by their current or former partner. The following year showed an increase in murders to 695, excluding 31 terror attack victims, with 114 deaths by those on probation. Reform is desperately needed since women’s and their children’s lives depend on it.'

The Ministry of Justice must implement its new reforms without delay since it is obvious that victims are constantly being ignored by the criminal justice system in the UK.

One attacker who slipped through the net was Leroy Campbell, 57, who was released from prison four months prior to attacking Lisa Skidmore, 37, in her home in Bilston, West Midlands, in November of 2016. The convicted rapist, who was on probation at the time, raped and murdered Lisa before attempting to kill her mother, Margaret Skidmore, 81, by choking her.

Campbell, who was living in  Moseley, Birmingham, had been watching Lisa for weeks after he after chillingly telling his probation officer that he 'felt like raping' someone again.

What did the probation officer do other than tell him to get those thoughts out of his mind?  He should have had him arrested and returned to the prison he was released from. Had his probation officer done that, Lisa would be still alive today.  

Marvyn Iheanacho, 41, flew into a violent rage and beat his girlfriend's son, age five, to death after the youngster lost his shoe in a park in Catford, south east, in November 2016.

The victim's mother, Liliya Breha claimed probation officers did not warn her that Marvyn Iheanacho was banned from contacting children before he fatally attacked her son Alex Malcolm. 

Alex's mother was not aware of Iheanacho's violent past and that  he broke the conditions of his release with impunity which included not having unsupervised contact with underage children.  

The inquest at Southwark Corner's Court heard that Iheanacho had a string of previous convictions for assaulting girlfriends dating back to 2001.

These included him punching a girlfriend aged 19, striking another with a hammer, punching a girlfriend unconscious in 2012 and  breaking her jaw because she refused to lend him her phone.  He also throttled a partner in 2014 and in 2015 was jailed for whipping a girlfriend and grabbing her by her throat.

The conditions of his parole should have been that he was to inform his parole officer if he was going out with a woman, especially with a woman who has a child.  This didn’t happen. Unfortunately, a child was killed as a result of that omission.

The shocking figures have led to calls for urgent improvement in the probation system, which is still reeling from disastrous reforms which especially placed some of the services in the hands of private companies.

Acting co-chief executive of Women's Aid, Adina Clare said the findings show the 'scale of the challenge' within the system and having a safe probation response to domestic abuse cases can be 'a matter of life or death. She added. “Early releases of offenders, particularly when a victim is not provided with robust safeguards and ongoing support, can and do put women at further risk.” The safeguards are really necessary to the victims who testified against their attackers.

Victim’s rights campaigner, Harry Fletcher, said, "These are shocking statistics. \it is   a rise of over 60 per cent in reviews into murders where the alleged perpetrator is on parole or supervision defies belief. Yet again, victims are ignored by the criminal justice system. Charities say the findings are an "urgent wake up call" that the probation system needs to be overhauled.

As newly-appointed Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling announced in October 2019, reform of the probation service. For the first time all offenders, including those serving less than 12 months, will be subject to mandatory supervision and tailored rehabilitation on release from prison. Hopefully, these reforms will save the lives of women and children.

Responsibility for federal corrections in Canada is shared between two agencies within the Department of Public Safety. the Parole Board of Canada (PBC or the Board) and the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC). Both agencies operate under the same law – the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA).

CSC is responsible for managing penitentiaries which house offenders serving sentences of two years or more. CSC is also responsible for the delivery of programs, the preparation of cases and making recommendations to PBC for parole and for the supervision of offenders while they are in the community.

The Board is an administrative tribunal that has exclusive authority under the CCRA to grant, deny or revoke parole. Under certain circumstances, the Board may also order the detention of offenders subject to statutory release.

PBC has authority to make conditional release decisions for offenders in federal and territorial prisons. The Board also makes parole decisions for offenders serving sentences of less than two years in provinces that do not have their own parole boards (only the provinces of Quebec and Ontario have their own parole boards).

The PBC is also responsible for making decisions to order, refuse to order and revoke record suspensions under the Criminal Records Act (CRA). The Board also makes recommendations for the exercise of clemency through the Royal Prerogative of Mercy.

Conditional release is among the most controversial and misunderstood areas of the Canadian criminal justice system. By addressing and dispelling a number of widely-held misconceptions and popular myths about parole, this document is intended to help the reader better understand how parole works and how it contributes to the protection of society by facilitating as appropriate, the timely reintegration of offenders as law-abiding citizens.

Parole only affects the way in which a sentence will be served. It allows offenders to serve their sentences in the community under strict conditions of release and the supervision of a parole officer. If they abide by their conditions of release, they will remain under sentence in the community until their sentence is completed in full, or for life in the case of offenders serving life or indefinite sentences.

If they breach the conditions of their parole, they will be sent back to their prison and serve the remainder of their sentence in prison. Of course, if they commit a crime while on parole, they will serve the sentence given to them for the new crime they committed while on parole.

So why is the legal system releasing offenders that they assess as a high risk to re-offend? That’s the question that comes up from members of the public every time one of these notifications is released.

MacKay has a criminal record dating back to 2000. Some of his previous convictions were violent in nature and he has been assessed at a high risk to re-offend. Nevertheless, he was released at the end of his sentence.

When offenders reach the end of their sentence or their warrant expiry date as it’s called. The CSC says they no longer have a legal mandate over these individuals” and by law must release them unless they were classed by the court as a dangerous offender.

Paulette Gaudet, communications manager for CSC, says research has shown that offenders do much better after their release if there is “continued treatment and support” in place to help them start a new life. 

When under supervision in the community, the Correctional Service of Canada says offenders must follow strict rules including:
·      Reporting regularly to a parole officer and the police
·      Abiding by imposed conditions, such as avoiding alcohol or certain people.

The Parole Board of Canada (PBC) is the body that decides to grant, deny, cancel, terminate or revoke day and full parole. They may also order that certain offenders be held in custody until the end of their sentence.

There is one mechanism that allows officials to keep an individual behind bars for an indefinite amount of time if they’re declared a dangerous offender. A dangerous offender is a designation that the prosecution service must apply for at the time of sentencing. Neither the Correctional Service of Canada nor the Parole Board of Canada have legal jurisdiction to designate someone as a dangerous offender, only the courts can.

If granted, the dangerous offender designation is for life.  Such   a designation is for serious personal injury offences which can include sexual assault offences or any violent or potentially violent offence that carries a maximum sentence of 10 years or more can trigger a dangerous offender designation.

According to statistics by Public Safety Canada, at the end of the 2014-15 fiscal year, there had been 735 offenders designated as dangerous offenders in Canada since 1978. many more were added since then.

Canadians would be right to suspect that this is something that happens relatively often. A Canadian given a “life sentence” for first-degree murder can expect to get out of jail in only 22.4 years, according to 2002 numbers from Corrections Service Canada. The Canadian justice system has freed serial killers, child murderers, mass shooters, cop killers, cannibals and even terrorists.

 Former RCMP drug squad officer, Kelly murdered his wife Jeanette in 1984 by throwing her off the balcony of their 17th-floor Toronto apartment. Kelly has never admitted to the murder, claiming that his wife simply tripped and fell. Nevertheless, he has repeatedly been granted day and full parole since 2004. Every time, Kelly has quickly violated parole terms by pursuing multiple romantic relationships with women unaware of his criminal past.

Andy Bruce was given a life sentence in 1970 for shooting dead a young woman in front of her seven-year-old daughter, reportedly over an ounce of heroin. Even before that Bruce had a lengthy rap sheet that included two sex attacks on strangers. In 1975, Bruce was one of the ringleaders of a hostage-taking and escape attempt at New Westminster’s B.C. Penitentiary that killed 32-year-old social worker Mary Steinhauser, reportedly as she was being used by Bruce as a human shield. Despite all of this, Bruce was granted full parole in 2010. He was arrested in 2016 after he was found masturbating at a bus stop and threatening passersby with a can of pepper spray.

Long before there was the 2014 Parliament Hill attacks, there was Denis Lortie. Using weapons stolen from a Canadian Armed Forces base, Lortie charged shooting into the Quebec National Assembly in 1984, wounding 13 and killing three government employees: George Boyer, Camille Lepage and Roger Lefran├žois. The death toll could have easily been much higher if the attack had started while the assembly was in session. Lortie pleaded guilty to three counts of second-degree murder in 1987, but got day parole in 1995 and full parole in 1996, only 12 years after the murders were committed.

As you can see, justice is fleeting at best.

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