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‘Serious failings’ in supervision of quadruple murderer, says probation watchdog

The enforcement of Joshua Jacques’ probation was said to have been ‘inconsistent’ (Elizabeth Cook/PA)
The enforcement of Joshua Jacques’ probation was said to have been ‘inconsistent’ (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

There were “serious failings” in the probation supervision of quadruple murderer Joshua Jacques, the Chief Inspector of Probation has said.

Jacques, 29, was on probation when he attacked Samantha Drummonds and her family with a knife in their home in Delaford Road, Bermondsey, south London, early on April 25 2022.

Police found the bodies of Ms Drummonds, 27, her mother Tanysha Ofori-Akuffo, 45, grandmother Dolet Hill, 64, and Ms Hill’s partner Denton Burke, 58, after being alerted to a disturbance by a neighbour.

Joshua Jacques court case
Samantha Drummonds, 27, was murdered by Joshua Jacques in south London in April 2022 (Metropolitan Police/PA)

During his trial, the Old Bailey heard that Jacques took 3g of skunk cannabis a day and refused to consider cutting down, saying he would carry on smoking marijuana “even if it killed” him.

Jacques had been released on licence on November 11 2021, following a 51-month custodial sentence in 2019 for drug-related offences.

The judge found that Jacques’ offending had been contributed to by cannabis abuse, and that he was “well aware” of the impact of it on his mental health.

Chief Inspector of Probation Martin Jones, who conducted an independent review into Jacques’ supervision by the Probation Service, said that it failed to organise a drug abuse intervention for Jacques, despite it being a condition of his release.

“The case records show that Jacques was routinely using cannabis whilst on probation, and his licence contained a condition to engage in a drug abuse intervention on release from prison,” he said.

“No such intervention was organised by the Probation Service and our inspection found no evidence of a referral to a drugs agency.”

Mr Jones said the enforcement of Jacques’ probation was “inconsistent” despite concerns about repeated non-compliance.

“There were serious failings in the supervision of Joshua Jacques,” he said.

“Despite concerns about repeated non-compliance with his licence conditions, enforcement practice was inconsistent and opportunities to recall Jacques to custody were missed.”

Joshua Jacques court case
Dolet Hill, 64, and Denton Burke, 58, were also killed by Jacques (Metropolitan Police/PA)

He said that Jacques was incorrectly allocated to a newly qualified probation officer, and that management oversight of the case was “insufficient”.

Jacques was also assessed as posing a “high risk” of serious harm to the public before being released from custody, he said, but his risk to former partners or probation staff was “underestimated”.

“No risk assessment was completed for Jacques following his release which resulted in no risk management plan or sentence plan in the community being completed,” he said.

Jacques himself had reported that “random aggression” could be a symptom of declining mental health, Mr Jones said.

“In February 2022, Jacques disclosed to probation court staff that he was experiencing a decline in his mental health; however, no action was taken,” he said.

“Inspectors found during this review that probation staff felt ill equipped to understand and respond to mental health concerns, with limited training and support being available to them.”

Mr Jones said that the case was “symptomatic” of issues observed across the Probation Service in recent years.

“A reliance on an inexperienced cohort of probation staff, a lack of support for mental health and substance misuse issues alongside insufficient management oversight are concerns which have been highlighted repeatedly,” he said.

“As a result of this review, eight recommendations were made to HMPPS (HM Prison and Probation Service). They have accepted all these recommendations and responded with an action plan for implementing them.”

Chief probation officer Kim Thornden-Edwards said she was “deeply sorry for the unacceptable failings” in the case, and they were taking immediate steps to address the issues raised in the report.

This included “increased support for newly qualified probation officers and improved access to substance misuse treatment for supervised offenders with a history of drug use,” she said.

“We are also using the extra £155 million being invested into the Probation Service every year to strengthen supervision, reduce caseloads, steer offenders away from crime and keep the public safe.”

Shadow justice secretary Shabana Mahmood said: “It’s clear there were multiple failings in this case and the Government must act fast to address the challenges facing the Probation Service. Tory ministers need to urgently explain to the public the steps they are taking to avoid this happening again.

“It’s no use the Lord Chancellor calling for a review if he isn’t going to follow up with the necessary action. We have a mismanaged Probation Service that is already struggling to retain experienced staff.

“These issues have been made worse by the fact that the Government has resorted to emergency measures to manage the prison capacity crisis which have loaded more cases on to the Probation Service.”