Publication Date23 December 2019
Date23 December 2019
AuthorBridget Penhale,Margaret Flynn
SubjectHealth & social care,Vulnerable groups,Adult protection,Safeguarding,Sociology,Sociology of the family,Abuse
Bridget Penhale and Margaret Flynn
Welcome to this first issue of the new volume and Happy New Year to all our readers
(even if belated!). To start with, we provide some information and recent stories that relate to
safeguarding, which have appeared in different types of media in recent weeks. In fact all of
the items cited appeared within a period of one week in December (which may, of course, be
noteworthy in itself!)
In a break from our normal pattern of providing brief snippets of such items, to begin, we provide
some more detailed information about a recent court case that was concluded towards the end
of the year. In early December, a serial rapist, Joseph McCann, was found guilty (and sentenced
to 33 life sentences) following incidents that occurred after he had been released early from
serving a prison sentence due to errors that had occurred by the Probation Service[1]. It is worth
considering these events and failures in some detail as there are similarities with some of the
issues that are found at times in Safeguarding Adult Reviews in relation to lack of communication
and information sharing between agencies. During a previous period in prison from 2008
(for violent burglary), as the judge had considered him to be dangerous, he had been given a
sentence of Imprisonment for Public Protection, which meant that after a minimum term of two
and a half years he could only be released when the Parole Board decided that it was safe to do
so. Although such sentences were intended to protect the public from violent and dangerous
offenders, they were cancelled as part of reforms introduced by government that took place in
2012. Applications for release made to the Parole Board in 2010, 2012 and 2014 were all
rejected; however, at the time of a fourth application in 2016, the Parole Board accepted a view
that McCanns behaviour had improved sufficiently that he could be released, subject to quite
stringent conditions relating to regular contact with a probation officer, staying in approved
premises (probation or bail hostel), accepting a night-time curfew, regular drug testing and
informing authorities of any new relationship that he had.
Within months of his release in March 2017, he was arrested and charged with burglary and
remanded to custody. Unfortunately, the correct procedures were not followed as he was on
licence from prison when arrested, he should have been recalled to prison and the Parole Board
would have been informed of this by the Probation Service, but this did not happen. The
consequence of this failure was that the Parole Board then had no control over the decisions
made about his future release from prison. In January 2018, McCann was sentenced to three
years in prison for burglary (including vehicle theft). The judge at that hearing indicated that
the recall process should have been applied and the Parole Board notified and further stated
that the sentence given would run concurrently with his existing sentence (re-applied as a result
of his recall, if this happened retrospectively), and with no reduction in the sentence applied due
to time spent in prison on remand whilst awaiting the court hearing.
However, the recall process was not applied, the Parole Board was not informed and time
served whilst on remand was counted as part of his sentence. The effect of this meant that
McCann was treated the same as any other offender who had been given a fixed-term or
determinate sentence. He was therefore released in February 2019, at the halfway point in his
sentence, after spending 18 months in prison.
Within two months, he had begun re-offending, carrying out a series of sex attacks on women
and children in England over a period of two weeks, before being arrested. His victims were aged
from 11 to 71 years and included three women who were abducted from the street at
knifepoint and repeatedly raped. Following a court hearing which he repeatedly refused to
DOI 10.1108/JAP-02-2020-059 VOL. 22 NO. 1 2020, pp. 1-4, © Emerald Publishing Limited, ISSN 1466-8203

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