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Inquest outlines probation and police failures

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INQUEST, inquest, narrative conclusion, Lisa Skidmore, probation office failures, police failures, rape, murder, arsonUntil violence against women is taken seriously by authorities the deaths will continue.

The inquest into the homicide of Lisa Skidmore concluded recently with the jury returning a narrative conclusion finding multiple failures by the police and the probation services more than minimally contributed to her death.

Lisa died on 24 November 2016, after a man who was under the supervision of the National Probation Service (NPS) entered her home and brutally raped and killed her.

Lisa’s mother, who was 80 years old at the time, was also attacked and tied up before the perpetrator set fire to the property and fled.

Emergency services were called, but Lisa was found dead at the scene. The cause of death was determined to be “compression of the neck”.

In May 2017, Leroy Campbell pleaded guilty to murder, as well as a number of other serious offences including rape. He was sentenced to a whole life term of imprisonment.

The inquest heard that at the time of Lisa’s death, Campbell was under NPS supervision, having been released on licence in July 2016 from a discretionary life sentence.

On release he was assessed by the probation service as a Tier 4 case, which means high risk of serious harm.

His previous offending history included rape and serious sexual assaults against women in their own homes.

Six weeks before he carried out the attack on Lisa, he confirmed to probation services that he was “noticing open windows” and thinking about rape, as well as disclosing other trigger factors linked to his previous offences. No steps were taken to recall him to prison.

That week he separately disclosed to West Midlands police that he was feeling isolated and down. He also informed police that he was noticing open windows.

The police took no steps to recall him to prison.

Six weeks after the disclosure to probation services and the police, during which time no adequate risk assessment was carried out, Campbell brutally attacked Lisa and her mother.

Both women were not known to him.

The jury found that there was a failure to communicate and share information internally and externally between the probation service and the police. They also noted that there was “a heavy reliance on what the perpetrator was relating to the Police and Probation without home checks carried out”.

When the risk was identified, they concluded that there remained a failure to take adequate measures to manage that risk.

The jury also found insufficient consideration was given to the option of making a reference to recall him to prison at any point from 17 October 2016 onwards.

Three key witnesses confirmed at the inquest that if they had been aware of the full information, recall action to return him to prison would have been initiated as the recall test was passed.

However, the jury found Line management within Probation failed to recognise the risk identified by staff and the police.

The coroner also heard evidence to inform a potential report to prevent future deaths.

Sonia Crozier, the Head of Probation for England and Wales, gave evidence in which she referred to Chris Grayling’s ‘flagship’ initiative – Transforming Rehabilitation’, which was introduced in summer of 2014.

She said that this had resulted in significant changes to the organisation and culture of probation services resulting, among other things, in a deficiency of qualified probation officers.

She said of the failures in the Lisa Skidmore case that she was “personally and professionally ashamed.”

Sarah Kellas, of Birnberg Peirce Ltd solicitors, who represented the family, said: There was a litany of failures, at every level, by probation and the police – the agencies responsible for the public protection to manage and properly respond to a dangerous and violent sexual offender whose risk had clearly escalated.

“Unfortunately, this is not the only case we are dealing with where a violent offender has gone on to kill when under the supervision of probation.”

“It is of note that these cases all follow Chris Grayling’s catastrophic ‘Transforming rehabilitation‘ initiative in 2014 which massively increased workload of an overstretched probation service and meant individual officers were not able to stay on top of caseloads, leading to utterly avoidable and devastating results.”

Other recent deaths involving people on licence to the probation service include Quyen Ngoc Nguyen, 28, who died in August 2017 following sexual and physical violence by two men who had been released from prison on licence – the inquest exposed a ‘dysfunctional’ system for public protection; and Alex Malcolm, aged 5, who was killed in November 2016 by the man who was the former partner of his mother. He was under supervision of probation service following a series of convictions for violent behaviour. Despite having spoken to the relevant probation officer, Alex’s mother was never made aware of her former partner’s history and the risks for which he was being monitored.

Deborah Coles, Director of INQUEST, said: “The shocking death of Lisa Skidmore was preventable and the direct result of a failing criminal justice system.

“Warnings about physical and sexual violence to women were ignored by both the probation and the police service.

“This inquest has performed a vital function of enabling proper public scrutiny and identifying systemic failings.

“This must result in real change.

“This is not an isolated case and until violence against women is taken seriously by authorities the deaths will continue.

“This cannot be allowed to happen.”

And Harriet Wistrich, Director of the Centre for Women’s Justice, said: “This totally tragic and appalling death is one of a series of murders we are aware of that are attributable to probation failures.

“The victims in all our cases are women and children and the perpetrators men with a history of violence towards women.

“Grayling must carry some weight of responsibility for his disastrous ‘Transforming Rehabilitation’ reforms, but we also need to ensure that risk assessment is informed by experts who understand the patterns and prevalence of male violence toward women and children.”

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