Probation chief apologises for ‘failings’ in Joseph McCann case

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Jo Farrar said ‘strong and immediate’ action had been taken against the staff involved.

Joseph McCann

A probation service chief has apologised for “failings” in the Joseph McCann case which led to his release into the community.

One staff member was found guilty of gross misconduct and demoted after an investigation into the circumstances of McCann’s release.

The review found McCann should have been recalled to prison after he committed a burglary while on licence for an earlier offence.

He was instead handed a fixed prison sentence and released automatically halfway through, without Parole Board involvement, in February.

Following McCann’s conviction, Jo Farrar, chief executive of HM Prisons and Probation Service, said: “These were appalling crimes and our thoughts and sympathies are with the victims and their families.

“We recognise that there were failings and we apologise unreservedly for our part in this. We are committed to doing everything we possibly can to learn from this terrible case.

“We have taken strong and immediate action against those involved in the management of McCann’s case and are taking significant steps to improve intelligence sharing between agencies.


“At the same time, we are developing new mandatory training on recall for all probation officers and we have updated guidance on the threshold for recalling an offender to prison.”

Joseph McCann
Joseph McCann on CCTV at a Morrisons supermarket in Greater Manchester where he abducted his 71-year-old victim (Met Police/PA)

Violent offender McCann, 34, had been given an indeterminate sentence for the public protection (IPP) in 2008 after admitting breaking into and burgling the home of an 85-year-old man.

The terms of that sentence meant the Parole Board had to decide if it was safe to release him once his tariff expired.


Following his release on licence in 2017, McCann committed the second burglary and should have been recalled to prison.

But he was remanded into custody and then given a three-year determinate sentence, which did not take into account his earlier offending.

Joseph McCann
McCann was caught on CCTV at a bar where he met the mother of a family he held prisoner (Met Police/PA)

His release in February came two months before he began his sex attack spree.

Following his arrest in May, the Ministry of Justice carried out a serious further offence review into McCann’s case.

Of four probation staff in the South East and Eastern division who were directly involved in McCann’s supervision, one was demoted.

An earlier investigation resulted in one member of staff involved with McCann being dismissed and an agency worker’s contract being terminated for “poor performance”, although it was not understood to be directly related to the case.

It is understood the number of probation workers in the Hertfordshire area has increased by around 40% since September 2017.

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