• Sun. Jan 29th, 2023

Zara Aleena’s aunt calls probation failings around her killer ‘extremely distressing’


Jan 24, 2023

The aunt of law graduate Zara Aleena – who was murdered on her way home after a night out – has called the findings of a report into the Probation Service “extremely distressing”.

Farah Naz said it revealed “a litany of errors” in the lead up to her niece’s death.

She told BBC Radio Four’s Woman’s Hour it’s “not a service that’s doing its best with inadequate resources… This is a service that is incompetent and has the failures by people at the top to ensure a quality service.”

The report found failings by probation officers left sexual predator Jordan McSweeney able to stalk and kill Ms Aleena just days after he was released from prison.

The 29-year-old was sentenced to a minimum of 38 years for sexually assaulting and murdering the 35-year-old in Ilford, east London, on 26 June last year.

Jordan McSweeney, who has pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey to the murder of law graduate Zara Aleena
Jordan McSweeney, who has pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey to the murder of law graduate Zara Aleena

Justice Secretary Dominic Raab ordered a review of how probation staff had supervised McSweeney when it emerged he had been freed from prison on licence – where individuals are released from jail but still have a part of their sentence to serve in the community – nine days before the murder.

In the report, chief inspector of probation Justin Russell said: “Jordan McSweeney should have been considered a high risk of serious harm offender. If he had, more urgent action would have been taken to recall him to prison, after he missed his supervision appointments on release from custody.

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Zara Aleena murder: What happened?

“The Probation Service failed to do so, and he was free to commit this most heinous crime on an innocent, young woman.”

In the nine days before the murder, McSweeney’s licence had been revoked after he failed to attend any meetings with probation officers, but he had not been recalled to prison.

Ms Naz said she was here to “campaign” and “give a voice” to her family, and “everybody else who wants to see better services”, adding: “I’m looking for change and accountability.”

Describing her niece, she said: “This is a very difficult time for us. She was the complete antithesis of this man that was given a licence to walk the streets freely.”

She was a “good human being … very active in the local community … loved by all of us dearly, funny, clever, beautiful and a real lover of life”, Ms Naz said.

She added that she is “looking forward” to a conversation with Mr Raab.

Chief Inspector of Probation Justin Russell, whose team carried out the review, told the programme that probation officers need to be “reminded of the basics, they need to be retrained in how you distinguish between a medium and a high-risk case”.

Asked if the Probation Service was fit for purpose, he said: “I think the way that it assesses, manages and reviews risk of harm is not fit for purpose, and that is a key function for the Probation Service, it should be one of its priorities.”

London’s mayor Sadiq Khan said the probation failings are “symptomatic of wider issues” which “must be addressed immediately”.

Mr Khan said: “My thoughts are with Zara’s family and loved ones on this extremely difficult day.”

Source : BBC News

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