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How government errors meant this serial rapist was free to attack another woman

A dangerous serial rapist was able to attack another woman after a string of serious errors by the Ministry of Justice and the Prison Service led to his being allowed out on licence from an open prison, the Independent can reveal.

The litany of failures can now be reported following Alan Wilmot’s conviction for a fifth rape last week. Jailed for life in 1987 for raping four women in west London, he was transferred to an open prison in September 2012 – but then attacked another woman at knifepoint after absconding.

Wilmot’s move to North Sea Camp, an open prison in Lincolnshire, was approved by officials working for Kenneth Clarke, the then Justice Secretary, two months before a High Court judge concluded that he posed “a continuing risk of serious harm to the public”.

In November 2012, Mr Justice King concluded that the Parole Board had ignored key evidence suggesting that the rapist was “not ready for transfer to open conditions”. By this time, Chris Grayling had succeeded Mr Clarke – but the judge was apparently ignored by officials, and Wilmot remained at the open prison. Less than a year later, he absconded and raped a woman at knifepoint. Wilmot was convicted by a majority of 11-1 and is expected to be sentenced this month.

The Parole Board had recommended that Wilmot be transferred to an open prison in 2006 and again in 2011, but in both cases the serving Justice Secretary – Labour’s Lord Falconer and Mr Clarke, respectively – blocked the move. Wilmot applied for a judicial review of the latter decision.

The judicial review hearing was held in November 2011, and a year later Mr Justice King concluded that Mr Clarke had been correct in preventing Wilmot’s move to an open prison. But Wilmot had already been transferred and officials took the view that the judge’s advice was out of date.

A Prison Service spokesman said: “Our sympathies are with the victims of this awful case. The decision to move offenders into open prison is taken ultimately by senior officials within the National Offender Management Service on behalf of the Secretary of State and on the basis of recommendations from the independent Parole Board.”

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