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'Unacceptable failings' led to Aylesbury man's sex assault spree

A review into Joseph McCann's case has been published, after he attacked 11 women & children.

Published by Dan Gooding at 11:29am 30th June 2020. 8-minute read.

'Unacceptable failings' led to Aylesbury man's sex assault spree

After an Aylesbury man was let out of prison and then assaulted 11 women and children across the country - a new report's found the probation service had 'major failings'.

Joseph McCann went on the run for two weeks in April 2019, kidnapping and sexually assaulting women and girls around the country.

Questions were asked about how he was allowed out of jail if he was this dangerous.

Inspectors found there were eight chances the probation service missed to keep him behind bars, even though he was seen as a 'major risk'.

The Ministry of Justice has apologised to McCann's victims for what it calls 'unacceptable failings'.

HM Chief Inspector of Probation Justin Russell has made this statement:

“When McCann left prison in February 2019, securing accommodation was a key element of release planning. As a high-risk offender, McCann should have been prioritised for a bed in approved premises.

"This would have ensured a greater level of monitoring and management, and would have tested his compliance in a community setting.

“Probation officers tried, and failed, to secure him a space on two separate occasions.

"Instead, McCann was allowed to live with family members, where he could not be monitored and managed closely."

Ten probation staff supervised McCann over an 11-year period, and three different probation officers were responsible for his case in the three months prior to his release in
February 2019.

McCann was managed by 'an unstable team', Mr. Russell said, lacking experienced and skilled practitioners. 

He continued:

“Those managing McCann did not have a clear picture of who they were dealing with.

"McCann has a long history of serious offending and complied poorly with court orders and in prison. There were signs that he posed an increasing risk to the public.

"There was evidence of his potential for sexual offending.

“This information was available, but it was spread across several criminal justice recording systems."

This lead to McCann being able to carry out the attacks in spring last year.

Mr. Russell said that improvements are needed to staff development and information systems and that probation staff must have the right skills, knowledge and experience to support rehabilitation and protect the public. 

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said:

"These were horrendous crimes and we have apologised to the victims for the unacceptable failings in this case. 

"We have greatly improved information sharing between prisons and probation officers and all probation staff have received new, mandatory training on when offenders should be recalled. We've also bolstered frontline staff, with 800 probation officers in training to help keep the public safe." 

What happened last year?

21st April 2019

McCann’s offending began in the early hours of Sunday, 21 April when he kidnapped a 21-year-old woman at knifepoint as she walked home alone in Watford.

During the ordeal the suspect gave his name as Joel McCann but within hours enquiries by Hertfordshire Constabulary established his true identity as Joseph McCann.

His details, including the Ford Mondeo car he had used to kidnap her, were shared on the Police National Computer the same day.

25th April

Despite ongoing efforts to locate him, McCann remained at large and on Thursday, 25 April, he kidnapped a 25-year-old woman seconds from her front door in Walthamstow and a 21-year-old who was walking home with her sister in Edgware later the same day.

Both were subject to repeated rapes and sexual assaults and forced to engage in sexual activity with each other.

Their ordeal ended in Watford when one of the women managed to hit McCann over the head with a bottle of vodka he had ordered them to buy, giving them the opportunity to attempt to run away.

Despite McCann’s efforts to force them back into the car, builders working nearby came to their aid and he drove at speed away from the scene.

Officers from the Met immediately launched an investigation to identify the suspect, carrying out house-to-house enquiries, issuing a number of public appeals and analysing hundreds of hours of CCTV.

28th April

As part of this work, on 28 April footage was seized from a hotel in Watford where McCann had attempted to check in with the victims just minutes before they escaped.

The same evening, these images were released to the public as part of a media appeal and within hours, he was identified as Joseph McCann.

At this stage, Met officers investigating the London offences identified from PNC that he was also the main suspect for the rape in Hertfordshire just days before.

With his identification now known, the work to trace McCann continued at pace, including a number of arrest warrants being executed and extensive phone work being carried out.

A dedicated manhunt team was put in place and further information shared nationally after enquiries revealed his potential historical links with a number of areas throughout the country.

5th May

On Sunday, 5 May, police in Lancashire received a 999 call at around 10:30hrs to say a woman had been detained in her own home and her two children – aged 11 and 17 – raped and sexually assaulted. After liaising with officers in London, McCann was soon identified as the prime suspect and the focus of the search moved north-west.

McCann quickly moved away from Lancashire and travelled via public transport to a supermarket in Ramsbottom in Greater Manchester, where he approached a 71-year-old woman as she got into her car at around 13:25hrs.

He forced her to drive away, punching her in the face when she told him to get out of the vehicle, and took her to an industrial estate where he raped her. He later kidnapped a 13-year-old girl from a street in Heywood and sexually assaulted her while the previous victim was still in the car.

Both victims managed to escape at around 17:55hrs while at a service station in Knutsford and called police.

Just over half an hour later, McCann had arrived – in the same car – in Congleton, Cheshire, where he kidnapped two 14-year-old girls who were walking down the road with a friend.

Within 20 minutes, an officer from Cheshire on patrol in a marked police car spotted McCann’s car at a roundabout and a pursuit ensued.

Arrest attempt

Following a collision with another vehicle, McCann fled the scene on foot and managed to escape from officers. The two girls were left shaken but uninjured.

Road blocks were quickly set up on all roads in and out of Congleton and at 20:38hrs, an officer manning a roadblock stopped a taxi and saw a man matching McCann’s description in the back seat.

He tried to grab him but again, McCann ran from the scene. Despite sprinting through fields to try and lose police, a police helicopter located him just over an hour later, hiding up a tree.

6th May

Following a five-hour stand-off with police negotiators, he eventually came down and was arrested by Cheshire officers at 02:36hrs on Monday, 6 May.

DNA evidence also linked McCann to multiple crime scenes including the victims’ homes and clothes.

“It was through persistence and bravery that some of them managed to escape."

At the time of McCann's conviction in December, DCI Katherine Goodwin, who led the investigation, said:

“McCann is a depraved and extremely dangerous individual who subjected 11 innocent people to horrific sexual and physical assaults – the memory of which they will have to live with for the rest of their lives.

“One of the victims described looking into McCann’s eyes as he attacked her and seeing pure evil; anyone who sat through the trial and listened to the evidence can have no doubt she was right.

“This case is one of the most shocking I have ever worked on and is made all the worse by the fact McCann forced all of his victims to re-live their ordeal in court by failing to admit his guilt, despite the overwhelming evidence against him."

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