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30 June 2020 | Comment | Article by Alan Collins

The latest report finds that Joseph McCann was freed by “Unstable” probation staff

An independent review headed by Chief Inspector of Probation, Justin Russell, found that a serial rapist was able to carry out multiple sex attacks due to a decision made by inexperienced probation staff.

The “unstable” team was reviewing Joseph McCann’s case in 2019 and as a result of “major failings,” the 34-year-old convicted burglar was freed. One of the victims of McCann’s sex attacks called the probation service’s actions “shambolic and chaotic”.

Joseph McCann was given 33 life sentences in December for attacks on 11 women and children.

The Hugh James Sexual Abuse Team has studied the HM Inspectorate Report on McCann which makes for hard and distressing reading.

It is unforgivable that the probation service for unfathomable reasons put McCann’s perceived interests before the safety of the general public. It may well be that others in the criminal justice system can and should be criticised, but the probation service had the duty to supervise. It made a series of decisions which enable McCann effectively to stay at large when he should have been in prison.

He posed a real risk to the public and the systems that are in place were corrupted through poor management and wayward thinking. As a consequence, he was let loose on to an unsuspecting public.

Re-offending is, of course, is taken seriously by all in the justice system, but when on licence, or when breaching the terms of licence the offender should be recalled. The MOJ needs to seriously reflect on its role because finding ways not to recall a prisoner is opening the door for the likes of McCann

Lives have been ruined as a result of what has happened and the MOJ must accept full responsibility for what happened and in addition accept that it has to be accountable for McCann and the crimes he committed.

We need clear and proven assurances that offenders who pose a risk remain red flagged throughout the justice system which prevents them being let loose. Offenders who pose a risk must be effectively managed in the interest of society.

Author bio

Alan Collins


Alan Collins is one of the best known and most experienced solicitors in the field of child abuse litigation and has acted in many high profile cases, including the Jimmy Savile and Haut de la Garenne abuse scandals.  Alan has represented interested parties before public inquiries including the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry, and IICSA (Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse).

Internationally, Alan works in Australia, South East Asia, Uganda, Kenya, and California representing clients in high profile sexual abuse cases. Alan also spoke at the Third Regional Workshop on Justice for Children in East Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok hosted by Unicef and HCCH (Hague Conference on Private International Law).

Disclaimer: The information on the Hugh James website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to ensure the commentary reflects current legislation, case law or best practice, please contact the blog author.


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