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Nottingham Attacks: Was Justice Served?

The mother of one of the Nottingham knife attack victims has said she was “foolish to trust the legal system”, after the killer was sent to a high-security hospital rather than jailed for murder.

Barnaby Webber and Grace O’Malley-Kumar, both 19, and Ian Coates, 65, were stabbed to death on 13 June last year by Valdo Calocane, who then tried to mow down three other people with a van.

The 32-year-old, who had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the basis of diminished responsibility and was last week handed an indefinite order to be detained in a high-security hospital. The government has today ordered a special review into Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, where Calocane was treated.

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Calocane ‘got away with murder’Calocane’s crimes are “among the darkest in British history”, said Leo McKinstry in The Sun, and his story is a “grim saga of negligence, incompetence and leniency which has denied justice to the families of his victims”.

Speaking on the steps outside Nottingham Crown Court after the sentencing, victim Coates’s son, James, suggested the killer had “made a mockery of the system and he has got away with murder”. 

Webber’s mother, Emma, told Sky News that, “with hindsight”, she had been “foolish to just trust in our legal system”. Her family had been “ill-prepared” to find out that the killer’s manslaughter plea had been accepted, she added.

The ruling has left the bereaved families with “more questions than answers”, wrote Sky News presenter Sarah-Jane Mee. “They were failed by a system meant to keep them and those living with mental illness safe,” she continued. “In this horrendous case it did neither.”

The “many missed opportunities” for interventions highlight a “stretched NHS mental health provision and police system that too often work against rather than with one another”.

‘Very probably’ a life in high-security hospitalSentencing Calocane, Mr Justice Turner said that after seeing detailed reports from “no fewer than five distinguished consultant psychiatrists”, he was “very clear” that the ultimate conclusion with respect to diminished responsibility had been properly reached. 

Calocane would “very probably” be detained in a high-security hospital for the rest of his life, the judge said. However, under section 37 of the Mental Health Act 1983, an offender is entitled to a review of their mental health every three years, and “could become eligible for release if doctors assess that they have recovered and are of sound mind”, reported The Telegraph.

Rishi Sunak has so far refused to order a public inquiry into Calocane’s case, despite calls backed by Keir Starmer and Wayne Birkett, one of the people hit by a van during the attacks. Webber’s parents told the BBC that they were “horrified” and “disgusted” that no inquiry was being planned.

A spokesperson for Attorney General Victoria Prentis did confirm that her office had received a submission arguing that the sentence handed down was “unduly lenient”. She has 28 days from sentencing to review the request and decide whether to refer the case to the Court of Appeal, although her considerations are “unlikely to look at whether the correct charge was pursued in Calocane’s case”, said The Independent.

NHS England has said it is also planning to order a separate Independent Mental Health Homicide Review into Calocane’s contact with mental health services, which is expected to take many months to complete.

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