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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 December 2007, 18:23 GMT
Woman killed after early release
Andrew Mournian
Andrew Mournian killed his girlfriend five days after his release
A prisoner released early as part of a government plan to reduce jail overcrowding went on to murder his girlfriend, it has emerged.

Andrew Mournian, 36, pleaded guilty at Leeds Crown Court on Friday to battering Amanda Murphy, 47, to death.

He was released in August under the End of Custody Licence scheme after serving a sentence for another attack on her.

Justice Secretary Jack Straw said it was "a shameful murder" and "a huge matter of regret" that it had happened.

'Terrible incident'

Mr Straw was asked about the case in the House of Commons by Shadow Justice Secretary Nick Herbert.

"I hope, seeing as you want to make something of this terrible incident, you will take note of what the learned judge said in her sentencing remarks," Mr Straw said.

We pointed out to ministers that men with a history of violence against their partners were being let out without proper checks
Harry Fletcher, Napo

"The senior High Court judge, Mrs Justice Swift... said she did not believe that the defendant's early release had led to Miss Murphy's death, and she went on to say that the defendant would have carried out the attack whenever he was released."

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said an internal review of the case was being undertaken by West Yorkshire Probation Area.

Mournian was sentenced to 20 weeks in June for assaulting mother-of-two Miss Murphy, but was released 18 days early in August.

He killed her five days later.

'History of violence'

Under the government's scheme, offenders released early after a sentence of less than 12 months are not risk assessed by the probation service and the address to which they will return is not checked.

Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary of the National Association of Probation Officers (Napo), said he had warned the government of the risks.

"We pointed out to ministers that men with a history of violence against their partners were being let out without proper checks," Mr Fletcher said.

We argued that this scheme put members of the public at risk and should be scrapped immediately
Nick Herbert
Shadow Justice Secretary

"The scheme needs to be urgently revised to ensure that anyone convicted of violence against their partner is not automatically returned to the same address."

Speaking later, Mr Herbert called the early release scheme "disastrous", and said: "Andrew Mournian killed Amanda Murphy when he should have been in prison.

"We argued that this scheme put members of the public at risk and should be scrapped immediately. This has now been tragically demonstrated."

Mournian was jailed for life for the murder, with a minimum tariff of 14 years.

Prison crisis

Det Supt Tim Forber, from West Yorkshire Police, said: "Amanda Murphy was a vulnerable individual who was subjected to repeated abuse by Andrew Mournian.

"He had a history of domestic violence against previous partners and he took advantage of Amanda Murphy's vulnerability."

The early release scheme was introduced in June when prisoner numbers in England and Wales reached 81,000.

The government said at the time that anyone convicted of serious violence or sexual offences would be excluded.

Mr Straw said overall the scheme had worked well, with only 1% of 11,000 prisoners released so far having committed a further offence.

The Ministry of Justice said: "Prisons have been instructed that they should now ensure appropriate action is taken in response to any information they receive that a prisoner poses a risk of domestic violence or to a specific victim on release."

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