Today (24th January 2023) HM Inspectorate of Probation has published its Independent Serious Further Offence (SFO) review of Jordan McSweeney, who murdered Zara Aleena in 2022; finding that given McSweeney’s long history of violence and convictions, he should have been considered a high risk of serious harm offender.
McSweeney had 28 previous convictions for 69 separate offences dating back 17 years, and a history of violence towards ex-partners. He was handed a restraining order for an offence against a woman in 2021.
The report finds that if he had been considered a high risk of serious harm offender, more urgent action would have been taken to recall him to prison after he missed his supervision appointments on release from custody. Because the Probation Service failed to do so, in a catalogue of errors, McSweeney was free to stalk several women with intent to attack them, before murdering Zara Aleena.
Andrea Simon, Director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW), said:
“This grave and appalling failing on the part of the Probation Service constitutes yet another way in which the criminal justice system is catastrophically failing to protect women and girls and prevent further violence and abuse.
No one wakes up one day and decides to murder a woman. There are almost always indications and often prior contact with the police and the criminal justice system, which begs the question of why these incidents aren’t taken seriously, and why more isn’t done to intervene and save women’s lives?
The Probation Service, as with so many of our public services, is buckling under the pressure of a decade of austerity policies and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, not aided by the disastrous structural reform of the service (recently reversed) which took place from 2012. Zara’s murder is a grave reminder of the price women pay for government policies.
Lack of government focus on preventing violence against women and girls has meant that the Probation Service has escaped the scrutiny that the government’s Operation Soteria and Rape Review provided, which focused on the criminal justice system’s response to rape from report to court. There are serious questions to be answered about what more should be done to prevent offenders from further harming women and girls. It is simply inexcusable that the government doesn’t invest time and resource into prevention work, including managing perpetrators and preventing offending from happening in the first place. It is deeply shameful that Zara’s death, like so many other women’s, was entirely preventable.”
Sinead Geoghegan, Communications Manager, firstname.lastname@example.org 07960 744 502