Here we have Carl Eve of the Plymouth Herald covering the latest news on the Tanis Bhandari case:-
'Tanis would still be alive today if system had not failed him'
Tanis Bhandari would still be alive today had there not been shocking failings in the way his killer was monitored, according to one Plymouth councillor. Philippa Davey launched an impassioned speech on the case at Monday's Plymouth City Council meeting, slamming the privatisation of the probation service which was supposed to be monitoring Donald Pemberton at the time he and Ryan Williams murdered Plymouth builder Tanis in Tamerton Foliot on New Year's Day 2015.
And she praised Tanis' family and The Herald for their work in exposing the errors, which are now due to be scrutinised in Parliament. Cllr Davey said: "A licence that stated he (Pemberton) had to be well behaved and not commit any offence. A breach of this licence could result in a recall to prison."
"Thanks to the perseverance of Tanis's family and the Plymouth Herald reporter Carl Eve, serious failings in the criminal justice system have been revealed. Failings that should not have happened, could have been avoided and have still not been resolved. Failings that pose a risk to the public in Plymouth and across the UK. It is a great shame that our MPs have failed to act immediately and it has taken a journalist, a grieving family and councillors to ensure action is taken to protect our residents."
Cllr Davey said Tanis' family had also been badly let down by the Ministry of Justice, Witness Care and Working Links Community Rehabilitation Company. She said: "The failure to advise them of their rights to the 'victim summary report' of the Serious Further Offence Review is just the start of a series of events which is, frankly, an insult to a grieving family seeking transparency and truth. The review of Working Links supervision of Pemberton was completed by another Working Links manager in the Bristol, Avon, Somerset and Gloucestershire area. A private company, investigating itself – what could go wrong?"
"Well, let me tell you. The family were not made aware of their rights to see the victim summary report, Pemberton had been arrested on December 15th and there was CCTV showing him brandishing meat cleavers in public. On December 22nd, a week later, the probation officer received a report from Pemberton's mental health worker, on the 23rd she spoke to the mental health worker and learned of his arrest and that he had been bailed, she prepared a summons to court which would be heard on January 16th regarding the breach of licence."
"The report stated that although the probation officer (PO) was newly appointed to the role they had worked for several years in probation in another role. This is where the facts end and the glaring errors and omissions start. Working Links will not provide the evidence of the PO's experience, they have confirmed they did not receive the expected training, training that Working Links themselves expect staff to complete."
"Worse, there is no formal record of any risk assessment or risk management plan, no evidence of inter agency working, including information sharing with the police public protection unit and all of this should have been good working practice. "A deterioration in Pemberton's state of mental health should have rung alarm bells, for both his safety and that of the public."
"A risk assessment should have been completed on his deteriorating mental health and his behaviour on the night of the 15th December. His risk was rising, his behaviour was escalating and he could have been recalled, subject to curfew or electronic tag and Tanis's murder may have been prevented. Pemberton could have received the treatment he needed.
"But worse was to come. Tanis's family were contacted by Devon and Cornwall Police and received a detailed report which revealed a worrying gap in the computer systems police rely on, not just in Devon and Cornwall, but across the whole of England and Wales.
"Pemberton was released from Portland YOI [Young Offenders Institution] and no one had sent a copy of his licence to be entered on the Police National Computer. Apparently only cases serious enough for MAPPA [Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements], POP [Prolific Offenders Project] offenders or those on HDC [Home Detention Curfew] go automatically to the Bureau. The police could not access a copy of Pemberton's licence."
"The report also revealed the probation officer has been contacted by Pemberton's doctor on November 21 who had seen Pemberton 'who said he was paranoid and afraid of his father and was now keeping an axe under his bed'. The supervising officer called police as she was advised action under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act was required. After calling both 101 and 999 she was told he wasn't currently a risk."
"The report notes how inexperienced the officer was and that she had never been informed by the custody unit of anyone on supervision being arrested, usually finding out from CPS when they went to court. Although the report does not make a causal link between the failures and Tanis's murder it does note that if the licence had been available it is likely he would have remained in custody and been recalled to prison. He would not have been at liberty and Tanis could still be alive today."
"Another shocking revelation was that Devon and Cornwall Police computer system, does not extract a suspect's Custody History screen, meaning custody officers 'would not see any licence details held on a prisoner in custody as the data would not be available via the interface'. The same system is used by all forces so affects every member of the public. This should be rectified immediately as it is the custody officer who will make a decision on release."
"Finally, and again terrifyingly, affecting the whole of the UK, the failure to record all licence conditions on the PNC has meant that in a dip sample four out of 11 offenders have no licence recorded on PNC. That included sex offenders but could include a wide range of offenders. The police's internal report concluded there was 'every chance incidents similar to this case will recur' if no changes were made to current processes. This is where we have to act and to ask our MP's to act, now."
"In June 2014 you heard NAPO and other experts warn that the privatisation of probation would cause fragmentation of services, lead to unqualified and inexperienced staff supervising complex and risky offenders, put inter agency working at risk and would not improve re offending rates and would put the public at risk. The recent inspections of CRC's in London, Durham and Stoke show clearly that the public is at greater risk, offending has not reduced and targets are being missed. Working Links are yet to have an inspection but trying to shed hundreds of jobs, wanting to change their operational model which will dumb down the PO role, having staff off sick, stressed and demotivated does not bode well."
Cllr Davey urged members to vote for her motion, tabled on January 23, regarding concerns over the privatisation of the Probation Service and the findings of the Serious Further Offence review and the police's internal report, and to 'heed the warnings from 2014 and the two investigations into what could have been an avoidable loss of life'.
She said: "To ensure Tanis's family receive the truth they are entitled to and the public who we represent are protected from harm wherever possible. We have a duty and the ability to make sure that Safer Plymouth really does make Plymouth Safer and that all of our partners are doing all they can to achieve this. We can ensure this happens. It is in our power."
Her voice was joined by Labour's Southway ward councillor Jonny Morris who said: "It's important that the council publicly recognises the dignity and determination with which Tanis' family have pursued their cause. While their determination faced with such horrific events might be somewhat expected, their dignity goes beyond what could be expected."
Conservative Budshead ward councillor, Dave Downie, also spoke out in support of the motion. He said: "It's obvious there have been a series of systemic errors on a national level which have had tragic consequences locally. I am more than happy to support this motion."
The motion was voted through unanimously by council members.
As he promised earlier this year, Plymouth Moor View MP Johnny Mercer has raised the concerns posed by the police investigation into the death of Tanis Bhandari in a written question to Elizabeth Truss MP, Secretary of State for Justice.
On January 27 he asked: "What assessment she has made of the implications for her policies of the findings of the Devon and Cornwall Police inquiry into the murder of Tanis Bhandari that omissions in the recording of license conditions on the Police National Computer are likely to recur."
Mr Mercer's office said they expect an answer from the Justice Minister within the next few days. A spokesman for the MP said: "Johnny and his office continue to work with the family of Tanis Bhandari for their best outcome.
"He will continue to work with them to seek the publication of the Serious Further Offence Review, pending which he will seek a meeting the Minister responsible for probation with representatives of Tanis' family. The primary focus for Johnny in this is to ensure that the family of Tanis Bhandari receive the answers they are seeking, as it would be for any of his constituents. We thank Plymouth City Council for their assistance after Johnny raised this as a question in the House last week. Should they wish to get in touch regarding this case, they can do so via his office, the contact details of which are widely available."