The jury found that errors by the prison, parole board, probation services and other agencies directly contributed to Naomi’s death.
The Coroner originally decided not to hold an inquest after Rice confessed to the murder. Liberty, acting on behalf of Naomi’s mother Verna Bryant, used Article 2 of the Human Rights Act – the right to life – to secure an inquest into her death. The inquest also completely dispelled the myth that the Human Rights Act was the reason for Rice’s release and instead pointed to the staggering list of errors by various bodies that led to Naomi’s death.
Verna Bryant, Naomi’s mother, said:
“After almost six years, and one abandoned inquest, I have at last been given answers to my questions following the terrible loss of my daughter. I have been shocked and upset at what I have heard, but I believe that getting all the different agencies together – to hear about each other’s failings and see what impact their own mistakes had – has proved very valuable.
There has never been any doubt that Anthony Rice killed my daughter, but it is now clear that there were many, many occasions when individuals could have, and should have, acted differently. There were also several serious institutional failings that meant the true level of threat that this man posed was never fully appreciated.
Because of Article 2 of the Human Rights Act and the efforts of Liberty, a full inquest has finally been held into Naomi’s death and all these failings have been exposed. I hope that each agency will now reflect upon the evidence heard, as well as the detailed verdict of the jury, to ensure that lessons are learned and that no-one ever has to go through this again.”
Emma Norton, legal officer for Liberty and representing Mrs Bryant, said:
“Politicians seeking to dilute the Human Rights Act take note – but for the HRA this inquest would never have happened and the Bryant family would never have known the true extent of the numerous terrible and avoidable failings that contributed to Naomi’s tragic death. Officialdom sought to scapegoat the Human Rights Act for Naomi’s murder – instead the truth is that it has given her family the answers they have been seeking for six years. Without the protection of this vital legislation victims will suffer.”
Twenty-one witnesses – including officials from two probation services, police, Rice’s parole board and Elderfield – gave evidence at the inquest. Every witness – apart from one – admitted they had not known of Rice’s offences against children.
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Notes to editors
1. During the inquest, the jury also heard that:
2. Rice, who had a 34-year history of violent sexual attacks, left jail in November 2004 after serving 16 years for rape, indecent assault and actual bodily harm. He killed Naomi after bumping into her in a pub while staying on licence at Elderfield probation hostel in Otterbourne, near Winchester. The inquest was abandoned in March last year after new information about public authorities’ knowledge of Rice’s sexual offending against children – including a girl as young as five – emerged. It reopened at Winchester Crown Court in January, and lasted six weeks as the handling of Rice’s prison release and supervision on licence was examined.