Tuesday, November 18, 2008

British Widow wins fight to find out why the rapist who murdered her daughter was set free because HIS human rights came first

A murder victim's elderly mother is to drag the entire criminal justice system into the dock at a landmark inquest. Verna Bryant's daughter Naomi was killed by a rapist who had been freed from a life sentence because his human rights were placed ahead of protecting the public. Anthony Rice also used the threat of human rights action to secure a relaxation of his licence conditions - making it easier for him to kill.

Now every Government agency involved in the case - considered the worst example of a criminal's rights being put ahead of those of the law-abiding public - will be forced to explain itself before a coroner. Those to be called at the inquest include the Ministry of Justice, probation service, parole board and MAPPA, a panel of police and other experts supposed to supervise freed danger men.

Because it has already been established that Miss Bryant was unlawfully killed, Hampshire coroner Grahame Short will deliver a so-called 'narrative verdict' in which he is free to criticise all those involved for the litany of blunders which allowed Rice to strike. Campaigners hope the unprecedented hearing, expected to begin in September and last for three weeks, will lead to seismic changes in the justice system.

Verna Bryant, a widow of 70, says she hopes it will prevent another family suffering the same agony as her own. Her 40-year-old daughter was murdered at her home in Winchester after meeting Rice in a pub. She was choked with a pair of tights then stabbed 16 times and stripped before her body was hidden under her bed, where it was found by her 14-year-old daughter Hannah. Mrs Bryant told the Daily Mail: 'My daughter had human rights too until Anthony Rice took them away.'

Full inquests are not normally held into murders, with the finding of how the victim died being left to the criminal courts. But, because Rice pleaded guilty, the full details were not heard in court. The Government carried out an inquiry into the killing, but in private. Mrs Bryant, backed by the civil rights group Liberty, was determined a full public inquiry should take place. Liberty also used the Human Rights Act to demand that Mr Short - who had decided there would be no inquest - reopen the case.

The coroner agreed that, under Article 2 of the Act - the right to life - he would investigate at an inquest whether public bodies could be held responsible for the murder. Liberty's legal officer, Anna Fairclough, who requested the public inquest for the family, said: 'It should make clear that their tragic loss might have been avoided if the authorities involved had been more alert to the warning signs.'

Mrs Bryant had originally announced, in 2006, that she would be using the Human Rights Act to sue the Government. But her lawyers say that, rather than seeking compensation, she wants to ensure there is no repeat of the Rice scandal. They believe the inquest is the best way of achieving this.

The Government report into the case has already found that 49-year-old Rice was freed to murder because officials placed his human rights above protecting the public. Chief Inspector of Probation Andrew Bridges said the career criminal - who had 22 convictions including assaults on young girls - should have been considered too dangerous to release. But he was allowed back on to the streets by a Parole Board which placed 'increasing focus' on his human rights rather than keeping the public safe.

His licence conditions were later changed to allow him to stay out until 11pm to attend pub quizzes - even though he had in the past tried to rape a woman at knifepoint while drunk.

Original report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

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