Jack Straw denies lack of resources led to brutal murder of French students

June 9, 2009 at 1:11 pm Leave a comment

by Lawrence Dunhill

Jack Straw today claimed that the poor managerial judgments, rather than a lack of resources, were to blame for the failure to detain Dano Sonnex, the killer of two French students.

In a statement made to the Commons the Justice Secretary did not accept there had been a “systemic failure”, instead citing the “poor judgment and poor management” of prison staff, probation workers and police.

Sonnex should have been in prison in June 2008, when he and Nigel Farmer, 34, killed Laurent Bonomo and Gabriel Ferez in south-east London.

But the 23-year-old was wrongly bailed by magistrates on a charge of handling stolen goods instead of being remanded in custody.

Further errors meant it took 33 days for the administrative process to be completed and another 16 days for Metropolitan Police officers to arrest the dangerous Sonnex, by which time the students were dead.

Mr Straw said: “While responsibility for the murders lies with the perpetrators alone, the successive failings that I have outlined meant that Sonnex was free to kill those young men when he could and should have been locked up.”

Shadow Justice Secretary Dominic Grieve said the justice secretary’s recommended procedural changes were “papering over the cracks” and described a “wholesale breakdown in the system”.~

He pointed towards the 2006 murder of John Monckton by two dangerous criminals on probation.

“The review revealed exactly the same basic failures to protect the public. A series of recommendations were made
that, as we can see all too clearly today, have not been followed through.”

Mr Straw stressed that resources were not the problem, with a 70% real terms increase in probation funding since 1997. He said London Probation under spent on its £154m budget by £3.5m last year.

“This was a failure to use the resources available to London Probation effectively.”

He admitted that a relatively inexperienced probation officer handled Sonnex’s case , alongside 120 other cases, when the number should have been 50 or 60.

He said: “The issue is that resources were not allocated properly either across different London boroughs, or within each borough according to the priority that ought to be given to offenders. Too little was going to high-pressured boroughs and, in a sense, too much was going to those that could have managed with rather fewer resources.”

He also accepted that a “ridiculously high” level of sickness (on average five and a half weeks) was taken by probation staff in the relevant office.

Sonnex was found guilty at the Old Bailey last week and sentenced to a minimum of 40 years in prison.

Co-defendant Farmer was also convicted of double murder and ordered to serve at least 35 years.

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