• Wednesday, February 08, 2023

HEADLINE STORY

‘They have blood on their hands’: Family blames government and Probation Service for Zara Aleena’s murder

By: Chandrashekar Bhat

The family of law graduate Zara Aleena who was murdered by a violent misogynist last June has accused the government and the probation service of being responsible for the loss of life.

“They have blood on their hands,” Aleena’s aunt Farah Naz said after a watchdog revealed the Probation Service “incorrectly assessed” the killer Jordan McSweeney before his release from jail.

“The probation service has a big part to play in Zara’s murder, they have a responsibility here”, she told the Guardian.

“Government bears responsibility too, it is not just the probation service,” she said.

Aleena was walking home in Ilford in London on June 26 morning when the racist, who was on probation, approached her from behind and dragged her into a driveway before launching a “ferocious and repetitive” attack on her.

She died at a hospital on the same day and McSweeney who pleaded guilty to murder and sexual assault was sentenced to life imprisonment in December.

Justin Russell, the chief inspector of probation, said in his damning report that the Probation Service failed to consider him as a “high risk of serious harm offender,” despite his history of violence.

Because of the wrong assessment, McSweeney could walk free to commit the heinous crime on the 35-year-old woman, the report said.

“McSweeney should have been considered a high risk of serious harm offender” and such an assessment would have led to “more urgent action to recall him to prison after he missed his supervision appointments on release from custody,” it said.

He had been known to the criminal justice system since 2005 and imprisoned many times before he killed Aleena. Having displayed violent and racially aggravated behaviour, he had been subjected to a restraining order for an offence against a woman in 2021.

“All the evidence shows that McSweeney should have been assessed, on release from prison, as high risk of serious harm. Instead, he was incorrectly assessed as being of medium risk because each of the offences, his behaviours in prison, and his criminal history, had been reviewed in isolation” the report said.

It went on: “Following his release from prison and successive appointments being missed, the Probation Service failed to take prompt action to recall him to custody”.

The report also highlighted the workloads the probation staff are experiencing and the high rate of vacancy rates.

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