"While dictators rage and statesmen talk, all Europe dances — to The Lambeth Walk."

Monday, 8 June 2009

More Blunders in the Criminal Justice System

The end of last week saw two very disturbing cases come to light. Both involved brutal crimes and serial offenders who should have been stopped by the justice system - but were not, due to catastrophic errors.

Two men have been found guilty of tying up, torturing and then stabbing to death two French students living in London. It turns out that the murderer should not have been on the streets at all, having been released early from a sentence for violence with a mistakenly low level of supervision.

The father of one of the victims has announced he intends to sue British authorities - rightly noting that if not for the inexcusable errors, his son would still be alive.

The Mail has more:

The families of two French students murdered by a psychopath who should have been behind bars intend to sue Britain's 'massively negligent' authorities for failing to protect their sons.

An appalling catalogue of blunders by probation officers, police and the courts allowed Dano Sonnex to rob, torture and then kill Laurent Bonomo and Gabriel Ferez.

Mr Ferez's father Olivier said an apology from Justice Secretary Jack Straw 'will not suffice' and the matter was in the hands of his lawyers.

And speaking at a press conference at Scotland Yard, Guy Bonomo said the parents knew their children 'would be alive today if the British justice system had not failed us'.

The students - both 23 and gifted research scientists considered to have brilliant futures - were trussed up in their South-East London home and stabbed a total of 244 times in an 'orgy of bloodletting'.

They had their heads wrapped in towels during the attackers' drink and drug-crazed frenzy lasting more than two hours. The flat was later torched by Sonnex's accomplice, drug-addict Nigel Farmer.

Sonnex, 23, (above) had earlier confessed to a prison doctor that he 'could kill' while serving an eight-year jail term for a stabbing and a string of knifepoint robberies.

But he was mistakenly freed from jail with only low-level supervision, after documents revealing his true danger to the public were not shared by officials.

A string of opportunities to return Sonnex to jail for new crimes - and keep him there - were then either squandered or missed.

When an arrest warrant was finally issued by probation staff to recall him to prison, it inexplicably took police a further 16 days to knock on Sonnex's door. By that time, Mr Bonomo and Mr Ferez were dead - killed earlier that same day.

In a rare move, Justice Secretary Jack Straw last night personally apologised to the victims' families for the blunders which led to the murders. He admitted that Sonnex 'could and should' have been in prison at the time of the killings.

Sonnex and homeless drug addict Farmer, 34, were convicted by a majority jury verdict of butchering both men on June 29 last year at Mr Bonomo's bedsit in New Cross, South-East London.

They stole £360, computer games and a few mobile phones.

Sonnex was sentenced to a minimum of 40 years and Farmer was told he must stay in prison for a minimum of 35 years.

Trial judge Mr Justice Saunders told the Old Bailey the pair had escaped being jailed for the 'truly horrific' murders for the rest of their lives because of their young ages.

A week before the murders, Sonnex had broken in and stolen Mr Bonomo's computer while he was in the shower, an incident which had left the student 'terrified'.

The students had been tortured for the PINs to their bank cards, which they willingly gave, but Sonnex is believed to have returned to the flat and gone berserk after Mr Ferez's card got swallowed when Sonnex mistakenly keyed in the wrong code.

Detective Superintendent Mick Duthie, who led the investigation, said: 'It was almost like they were treated like animals.

There was blood on the walls and ceilings. This was total carnage.'

It's the same old story. Hand wringing, a few token resignations, and a sea of CC:TV images. This is Sonnex, trying to withdraw cash with the stolen bank card, this is the dangerous psychopath storming back to kill the two helpless victims after he typed in the wrong PIN (despite having the correct one) and the card was swallowed.

Where were the police?

Mr Bonomo's father said:

'Our sons would be alive today if the British justice system had not failed us. It is a pain too great to bear.'

The company director added: 'I think that the people in the justice system who allowed him [Dano Sonnex] out on licence should be prosecuted. I think that every person concerned who had something to do with this should be in front of a court.'

Yes. Exactly what should happen. But more than that, we have to seriously examine why people like Sonnex are allowed to walk the streets even when they come to the attention of the authorities.

Violent crime should carry a three strikes and you're out policy - two chances to mend your ways, then mandatory life imprisonment.

A day after these blunders were brought to light, Kirk Reid, 44, (below) was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum of seven and a half years for 28 sex attacks on 27 different women.

That should be the worst part, but it's not. Not only do the police think he may have carried out up to 70 attacks, it took them four years to arrest him after he first came to their attention in 2004.

A judge yesterday criticised police for failing for four years to arrest a stalker who attacked dozens of women.

Kirk Reid, 44, a children's football coach, was identified in 2004 as a suspect for a series of sex attacks but was not arrested despite police having his numberplate and descriptions of a man resembling him.

Police believe Reid - dubbed the 'night bus stalker' - preyed on at least 20 more women before being arrested. Many were attacked close to their homes.

Reid stalked women returning home late at night before attacking them close to their doorsteps.

The former college head chef is suspected of carrying out at least 71 attacks over more than 23 years many on the streets of the Balham, Clapham and Tooting areas of south west London.

He targeted the majority of them on the N155 bus route home late at night.

Most of his victims were between the ages of 20 and 40 but Reid's youngest victim was 17 and the eldest aged 61 was returning from church when set upon.

He also attacked a six-month pregnant woman wearing a maternity dress. Judge Barnes told Kingston Crown Court that Reid was a 'Jekyll and Hyde' character who would continue to be a danger to women for many years.

Addressing Reid in the dock, she said the attacks were 'utterly degrading, humiliating and terrifying' and left his victims living in fear.

She added she was convinced Reid was responsible for a 1984 rape which was admitted in evidence but not included as a charge against him.

The Metropolitan Police was forced to apologise to his victims after the blunders which left him at large emerged. Officials at the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) are investigating mistakes that allowed him to roam the streets for so long.

Candice Marsh was attacked by Reid in 2001 and even though his DNA was found under her nails, police did not catch him for almost seven years.

She said: 'When I heard about all the other women who were attacked I was shocked. I don't understand how the police missed him. If there really were opportunities that they could have caught him, it's shocking they didn't.'

Reid was the second serious sex attacker to slip through the police net and highlight investigative failures in London.

A second inquiry is under way into how taxi driver rapist , who drugged and attacked his passengers, evaded detection.

It was only after the inquiry was passed to Scotland Yard's Homicide and Serious Crime Command last year that he was caught.

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