Inquiry into sex pest's school placement

AN INQUIRY was under way last night after a convicted criminal once accused of a child sex crime was given gardening work at a primary school as part of a community service punishment.

AN INQUIRY was under way last night after a convicted criminal once accused of a child sex crime was given gardening work at a primary school as part of a community service punishment.

Ian Missing, 23, of Chelmsford, was asked to do supervised evening work at the school as punishment when he was convicted of a common assault on an adult.

But during the time he was working at the school, he indecently assaulted an 11-year-old girl.

The youngster was not a pupil at the school and police said last month's attack did not take place on school premises.

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But it has also emerged Missing was previously accused of a sex attack on a child and investigated following allegations child pornography was found on a computer - although he was not prosecuted.

Missing admitted the October attack and will be sentenced at Chelmsford Crown Court next year.

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Police and probation workers, who allocated the school work to Missing, have launched a joint investigation and expressed their concerns.

And the mother of the girl assaulted called for answers, saying she was “shocked, angry and distressed”.

A statement issued jointly by Essex Police and Essex Probation Service said: “Essex Police and Essex Probation Service are determined to find out how the situation occurred and will be looking to establish if there are any loopholes in our current procedures.

“If these are found then immediate steps will be taken to address them.”

Roger Hill, director of the National Probation Service, said: “I am as troubled as anyone about the circumstances of this offence and its impact on the victim and their family.”

A Home Office spokesman added: “The message we want the public to understand is that we do take these issues incredibly seriously and all offenders put on placements are thoroughly risk-assessed.

“As a result of what has happened we will be carrying out a review.”

The events echo the case of Ian Huntley, who was convicted in December 2003 of the murders of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, both 10, in Soham in August 2002.

Huntley was working as a caretaker at a secondary school in Soham when he killed the girls after enticing them into his home.

He had been given the job despite having previously been accused of raping four teenagers and indecently assaulting an 11-year-old.

The breakdown in communications between police forces and local authorities involved was later the subject of a major inquiry set up to ensure that such a scenario was never repeated.

A spokesman for the school, which is in Essex but cannot be named for legal reasons, said probation officers should have concluded that Missing was an “unsuitable choice”.

“Ian Missing was arrested on school premises in connection with an indecent assault which occurred away from school grounds and did not involve a pupil at the school.

“At the time he was carrying out community service and had been assigned to the school by the probation service.

“The school has frequently taken on defendants who are sentenced to community service, a programme which over the past few years has been beneficial both to the school's external environment and the defendant.

“Any such defendant was subject to a risk assessment by the probation service prior to working at the school.

“Following a thorough investigation by the school, it seems clear that the assessment in Mr Missing's case should have concluded he was an unsuitable choice.

“As a result we have discontinued our partnership with the probation service.”

The mother of the girl told BBC Look East she was “shocked, angry and distressed” and “waiting for answers”.

“I want somebody to explain to me why somebody like this was working in a school,” she said. "I am furious.”

She added: “Whether it is police, probation or who is responsible, something needs to be done.

“I am very concerned that after the dreadful Huntley murders this happened in a school. Something has to be done.”

She went on: “We owe it to all the children out there to make sure that this doesn't happen again.”

Shy Keenan runs the Essex-based website Phoenix Survivors - campaigning against child sex abuse and offering victim support.

She said: “Children who see an adult walking into a school playground are very trusting of them.

“I am appalled and disgusted and we will be investigating it from today and looking into what happened to lead to this.”

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