The watchdog finds serious flaws in the probation of the murderer of Zara Aleena

The watchdog finds serious flaws in the probation of the murderer of Zara Aleena

Failures by probation officers left a sexual predator “free” to stalk and kill law attorney Zara Aleena just days after she was released from jail, according to a watchdog.

In a damning report, Chief Probation Inspector Justin Russell highlighted a catalog of errors in the Probation Service’s handling of Jordan McSweeney, which meant he was not treated as a high-risk offender when he should have been.

McSweeney, 29, was sentenced to life in prison and jailed for at least 38 years last month after admitting to a “terrifying and ruthless” attack on Aleena, 35, in Ilford, east London, in June.

Attorney General Dominic Raab ordered a review of how probation staff supervised McSweeney, who had a string of convictions and a history of violence, when it emerged he was released from prison on furlough nine days before the murder.

In those nine days, his license was revoked after he failed to meet with probation officers, but he was not called to jail.

The report comes just a week after the watchdog uncovered another litany of failings by probation officers before Damien Bendall murdered three children and his pregnant partner.

It also follows concerns raised nearly three years ago after serial rapist Joseph McCann carried out a series of sexual assaults when he was released from prison amid major failures by a “shaky” team of probation staff without experience.

Describing McSweeney as a “career criminal” who has been in and out of jail since the age of 16, Russell said he “should have been considered a high risk of serious harm offender”, adding: “If I would have, more urgent action would have been taken.” he’s been taken to call him in prison after he missed appointments to supervise him on release from custody.

“The Probation Service did not and he was free to commit this heinous crime against an innocent young woman.”

The findings bring “into focus the consequences of these missed opportunities and reveal a Probation Service, in London, under increasing pressure from heavy workloads and high vacancy rates,” it said.

One worker faced disciplinary action over the case.

But the watchdog report, published on Tuesday, said: “Human resources investigation procedures have been launched in respect of two staff members. These have now concluded, with no further action being taken in either case.”

The night McSweeney harassed Ms Aleena as she was walking home from a night out, he had already been kicked out of a pub for pestering a female staff member and tried to attack at least five other women.

Grabbing Ms. Aleena from behind, he dragged her into a driveway where he repeatedly kicked and stomped on her head and body before sexually assaulting her.

The attack, minutes from Ms Aleena’s front door and caught on blurry CCTV, lasted nine minutes and resulted in 46 separate injuries.

Ms Aleena, who was training to be a lawyer, was found with severe head injuries and struggling to breathe. She died at the hospital.

In court, the prolific thief McSweeney was described as a “damaged person” who had a troubled childhood where domestic violence was the “norm”.

They took care of him, expelled him from school and began dealing drugs and fighting bare-knuckles for money.

He had 28 prior convictions for 69 separate crimes over 17 years, including burglary, theft of a vehicle, criminal mischief, assaulting police officers, and assaulting members of the public while on bail.

He also had a history of violence against ex-partners and was issued a restraining order for a crime against a woman in 2021.

Making 10 recommendations, Russell called for an urgent review of how staff measure the risk criminals pose to others among a host of other measures, warning that until standards improve, it is “impossible to say the public is adequately protected.” of the dangers posed by criminals on probation.

Prisons and Probation Minister Damian Hinds said: “This was a despicable crime and I unreservedly apologize to the family of Zara Aleena for the unacceptable failures in this case.

“We are taking immediate action to address the serious issues raised by the Jordan McSweeney and Damien Bendall cases. This includes mandatory training to improve risk assessments, implement new processes to ensure speedy recovery of offenders, and we have taken disciplinary action where appropriate.

“We are also investing £155m a year in the Probation Service to recruit the thousands more officers who will provide tighter supervision, protect the public and ensure these kinds of tragedies never happen again.”

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