Young man's killing on bus could have been prevented

THE criminal justice system has been branded 'lackadaisical' and 'nonchalant' after a Kentish Town hospital worker was stabbed to death by a man wrongly released from prison

Ben McPartland

THE criminal justice system has been branded 'lackadaisical' and 'nonchalant' after a Kentish Town hospital worker was stabbed to death by a man wrongly released from prison.

Richard Whelan, from Gaisford Street, was stabbed through the heart by Anthony Joseph on a number 43 bus in Holloway when he tried to stop him throwing chips at his girlfriend.

After the attack on July 29 2005, it emerged 23-year-old Joseph had been freed from a Manchester prison only hours earlier because of an administrative blunder.

This week a report for the Attorney General claimed Mr Whelan's murder could have been prevented if the various agencies in the criminal justice system had worked together.

Her Majesty's Solicitor General Vera Baird, who carried out the investigation, said: "What we have found is what may best be described as a lackadaisical or nonchalant approach within the criminal justice system to many routine aspects of the handling of the cases, the cumulative effect of which was to lead to the sequence of events which culminated on July 29 2005."

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Staff at Forest Bank prison in Manchester were unaware there was a warrant out from Liverpool Crown Court demanding Joseph's immediate arrest because the police computer system had not been updated.

Charges of abduction and unlawful sex with a girl of 15 had been dropped against him, but he was wrongly released because he still had an outstanding warrant against him for a burglary in Merseyside.

In her report the Solicitor General concluded nothing in Joseph's offending history could have led the agencies to predict he would turn into a killer.

But the report also criticised the attitude of the criminal justice system towards bail after it emerged Joseph broke his conditions in the run up to the attack.

It added: "The lack of diligence in verifying suggested bail conditions, scant evidence of enforcement of those conditions and a failure to deal effectively with breaches when they occurred, all contributed to events taking the course they did. This was compounded by a lack of communication."

Joseph is currently serving an indefinite sentence at a secure mental health unit after he admitted a charge of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

On November 22 last year, a second Old Bailey jury failed to reach a murder verdict after hearing Joseph suffered from paranoid schizophrenia.

The new report recommends better information should be made available, procedures should be strengthened and agencies should cooperate more with each other. It also recommends ministers should consider giving prisons 'enhanced access' to the Police National Computer.

"We believe if that if our recommendations are implemented the likelihood of any similar tragedy occurring could be reduced significantly," it adds.

After the investigation was completed, Ms Baird said: "The government very much regrets the death of Richard Whelan and thanks the chief inspectors for their work. We are determined to learn lessons from this."