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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 April 2006, 15:50 GMT 16:50 UK
Supervision plan raises concerns
John Monckton
John Monckton's killer was under supervision
Probation service representatives, human rights groups and the families of victims have raised concerns about new measures unveiled by the government to protect the public from violent offenders.

Home Secretary Charles Clarke has said dangerous criminals released on probation are to face tougher supervision to prevent them re-offending.

The announcement comes in the wake of recent cases in which people under supervision have committed crimes such as the murder of banker John Monckton in London.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of human rights group Liberty, said the most serious offenders should stay in jail.

"We are sceptical about the value of yet another new-fangled order, but we will look at the detail," she said.

"Ultimately there should be much better mental health services in the community and better police in probation.

"But dangerous people are best supervised in prison. You cannot turn the community into a prison of itself."

'Under-resourced'

Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary of probation officer union Napo, said new measures were not needed as the courts already have adequate powers.

"They can impose indeterminate sentences which means potentially forever," he said.

If no extra resources are forthcoming, officers will be taken away from other duties
Probation Boards' Association

"They can have extended supervision for dangerous and violent offenders already, they have electronic tagging, they have curfews, they have a whole plethora of powers."

He suggested violent offender orders would amount to re-sentencing and were likely to be legally challenged.

"It is essential that ministers stop blaming the under-resourced probation service when release decisions go wrong", he added.

Mr Clarke has said it was vital for the probation service to learn lessons from the murder of Reading teenager Mary-Ann Leneghan in May 2005.

Four of those convicted of the killing were under supervision.

But Mr Fletcher said nothing within the probation service files could have predicted that murder.

The Probation Boards' Association, which represents the service across 42 areas in England and Wales, said there were "major concerns" about violent offender orders.

"If no extra resources are forthcoming, officers will be taken away from other duties," it said.

"This may well be necessary but there needs to be clarity about the implications."

'Unsuitable' role

The relatives of people killed by criminals under supervision said prisoners should be made to serve their full sentences.

Verna Bryant said convicted rapist Anthony Rice, who killed her daughter Naomi in Winchester last year, should not have been released or at least should have been monitored thoroughly.

"I think if he was institutionalised he should have been kept in the institution," she said. "I don't think he should have been let out."

Victor Bates, whose wife Marian was shot dead during a robbery at her Nottingham jeweller's shop in 2003, said the probation service should not be supervising released prisoners.

"It was never designed to do that - keep the violent criminals locked up," he said.

"Do not let violent criminals out early under any circumstances."


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