Sunday, June 10, 2007

Britain protects gross sexual deviants

Or is it a determination to hide gross bureaucratic bungling?

The findings of an inquiry into why a convicted murderer freed from prison was able to abduct and rape a ten-year-old boy will remain secret because its publication would infringe the killer's right to privacy. The Parole Board cites the Data Protection Act to justify its refusal to make public the findings of an internal review into its 2005 decision to free Stephen Ayre.

A separate internal inquiry was conducted by the Probation Service into its supervision of Ayre after his release. It was sent to the Home Office and also remains private. Ayre, 45, was jailed for life in 1985 for bludgeoning Irene Hudson, 25, to death with an iron bar. She had a mental age of 13. He was given a minimum tariff of 14 years. His first four attempts to gain parole were rejected and he had served 20 years in prison before he was finally released, with the approval of a parole panel, in April 2005.

Ayre spent the next six months in a Probation Service hostel before he was allowed to move into rented accommodation in Shipley, West Yorkshire, in October 2005. He was still being monitored by the service. Four months later, in February last year, he lured a ten-year-old boy to his flat, promising to give him a BMX bicycle. He threatened to slash the terrified child's throat before raping him.

Ayre admitted abduction and rape and was told by a judge that he would spend the rest of his life behind bars. Mr Justice Tugendhat told him that it was not the court's role to establish "how you were free to commit these . . . very serious offences", but added that "the family and the public will be concerned about certain aspects of this case".

After the hearing, West Yorkshire Probation Service announced that it had ordered an internal inquiry into its role "as a matter of urgency". The Parole Board also referred the case to its review committee to establish what lessons could be learned. The Parole Board revealed yesterday that although its review had been completed, its findings would remain private for fear of breaching Ayre's right to confidentiality under the Data Protection Act. A Parole Board spokesman said that it had wanted to make its report public but had received legal advice to the contrary. "We took legal opinion on this because we would like to put more information into the public domain. We want a more transparent and open process," he said. "The advice we got was that you can't publish anything that relates to individual prisoners because of the Data Protection Act."

The only information that the Parole Board has made public relates to "organisational findings" that do not affect Ayre's right to privacy. These include the need, in future, to ensure that no important information is missing from the dossier considered by the parole panel before it decides whether or not a prisoner should be released. No indication is given of what key information was missing from the dossier prepared by the prison and probation services in Ayre's case.

Maxine Myatt, director of interventions for West Yorkshire Probation Service, said last night that its internal review of the case had been conducted "rigorously and objectively". The report was sent to the Home Office and the review's recommendations had been swiftly implemented.

Philip Davies, the Conservative MP for Shipley, has fought unsuccessfully for the two reports to be made public. He claimed last night that the Data Protection Act was being used as an excuse to prevent the publication of potentially damning findings. "If it really is the case that this Act is preventing their publication, then the law should be changed to make sure that such reports can be made public," he said. "A convicted murderer was released from prison and raped a boy in my constituency. For the public to have confidence in the criminal justice system, they need to know what went wrong. "Until something changes, people are going to believe that the rules are there to protect the rights of convicted criminals and not those of the decent, law-abiding public."

Freed on licence:

Damien Hanson stabbed John Monckton to death at his Chelsea home. Had been released three months earlier after serving just six years for attempted murder

Anthony Rice a rapist on probation, killed Naomi Bryant, 40, nine months after being freed from a 16-year jail sentence

Peter Voisey sexually assaulted a six-year-old girl in North Tyneside while the subject of a multi-agency public protection arrangement. He had served two years for assaulting a 12-year-old girl

Yousef Bouhaddou stabbed Robert Symons to death in October 2004 after being let out weeks earlier

Adrian Thomas, Michael Johnson, Jamaile Morally and Indrit Krasniqi gang members on probation who raped, tortured and stabbed Mary-Ann Leneghan, 16, in 2005

Mark Goldstraw murdered three children and their stepfather in an arson attack in 2006, 18 months after jail release.


British residual pollution falling

But don't worry! Now that the real pollutants have just about been defeated, there's always an imaginary pollutant to worry about -- CO2!

Britain's green and pleasant land has just got that bit pleasanter, researchers have concluded after measuring pollution levels. Levels of a group of toxic chemicals polluting gardens and fields have fallen to their lowest point for more than 100 years, a nationwide survey has revealed. Emissions of dioxins from factories and power plants have been stemmed so effectively by bans and caps that contamination levels in soil have fallen for the first time since the Industrial Revolution.

The most comprehensive survey of toxic chemicals polluting Britain's towns and countryside has revealed that carcinogenic dioxin levels have fallen by 70 per cent since the late 1980s. "Britain is definitely a pleasanter land than it was 30 years ago," said Declan Barraclough, of the Environment Agency, who led the research that measured toxins at 200 locations across Britain. It showed that while dioxin levels rose steadily from 1850 to 1985, they have fallen sharply in the past 20 years. However, researchers found that while levels have fallen, they are still twice as high in urban and industrial areas as they are in rural locations. Previously, levels of dioxins in the atmosphere have been shown to have fallen but the survey was the first to address soil contamination levels, where the toxins last much longer.

Dioxins are an unwanted byproduct of combustion processes involving organic material, including fossil fuels, with traces of chlorine. They have been linked to several cancers. Dr Barraclough said: "These are the big, bad boys of the environment. These are the mafia of contaminants - you don't want them round for dinner, they're not nice. "A lot of them are either toxic to us or to wildlife. A lot of them are carcinogenic. They hang around for years and accumulate in the body. "But they've fallen very significantly and this is hugely important. It means by regulating dioxin emissions we've reversed an upward trend that went on for more than 100 years."

Other toxins were assessed by the researchers, including poly-chlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Concerns about the toxicity of PCBs first emerged in the 1960s. By the early 1990s, the levels found in soils had been cut to one eight-hundredth of their peak. The UK Soil and Herbage Pollutant Survey published yesterday showed that levels have fallen slightly further in the past 15 years, but towns and industrial areas contained up to twice as much as rural parts of the country. Researchers were concerned to find more PCBs than were expected still in the soil, and said it is likely that the toxins, which are similar to dioxins and are carcinogenic, are still escaping from sources such as window sealants.

Dr Barraclough said of PAHs, which are another cancer-causing contaminant and can be found in cigarette smoke, that levels appear to be falling, but more research needed to be done to be sure.

The risk to human beings from such pollutants is thought to come from inhaling them after they break free from substances containing them, and from eating plants that absorb them from the soil.

Though contaminant levels were within acceptable levels, it remained important to monitor them, he maintained, especially as they can damage wildlife. "We know PCBs can cause deformities in bird chicks, particularly herons, and we can still pick them out in birds of prey," he said. "We don't want another peregrine falcon crash."

The researchers measured levels of 12 metals, arsenic, 22 PAHs, 26 PCBs and 17 dioxins.


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