A man who murdered a woman last year had been wrongly assessed as “medium risk” following mistakes that were made by probation staff, a watchdog report has found. Jordan McSweeney, 26, attacked law graduate Zara Aleena in June 2022, nine days after he was released from jail.
According to a damning report by Chief Inspector of Probation Justin Russell released by the BBC that looks into the handling of McSweeney, it found that he was not treated as a high risk-offender when he should have been.
In December, McSweeney was sentenced to a minimum term of 38 years by a judge at the Old Bailey for the brutal attack carried out on 35-year-old Aleena. During the trial, he had admitted savagely kicking and stamping on the trainee solicitor, who was walking home in Ilford in east London when she was assaulted.
The report also revealed that McSweeney had 28 previous convictions for 69 separate offences, dating back 17 years. A prolific thief, McSweeney, from Dagenham, east London was described in court as a “damaged person” who had experienced a troubled childhood during which domestic violence was the “norm”.
Prior to the attack on Aleena in the early hours of June 26, 2022, McSweeney had also served nine prison terms for crimes including burglary, theft and possession of an offensive weapon. He also had a documented history of violence towards ex-partners.
Mr Russell’s report described how his case was allocated to a probation officer only nine days before he left prison, meaning there was little time for planning his supervision. The report also found that some information about his violent behaviour, including the details of a restraining order taken out against him in 2021, was not part of his probation assessment.
His whereabouts following his release from prison were also not mentioned in the assessment, and the fact that he was not monitored with an electronic tag. McSweeney’s licence was soon revoked because of his failure to attend any meetings with probation officers, however it was not decided he should be recalled to prison until June 24 the report said.
Following Aleena’s murder two days later, one worker faced disciplinary action over the case. The report said: "Once that decision (to recall McSweeney) had been made, there were also delays in signing the necessary paperwork to initiate the recall. Had this been done sooner, opportunities for the police to locate and arrest McSweeney would have been maximised.”
McSweeney had been assessed as medium risk because his offences, his behaviour in prison and his criminal history were "reviewed in isolation", Mr Russell’s report found. It said that if the Probation Service had correctly assigned McSweeney as high risk, more urgent action may have been taken after his release.
"The Probation Service failed to do so, and he was free to commit this most heinous crime on an innocent young woman," Mr Russell said. The government said “immediate steps” to address the issues mentioned in the report are being taken.