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Starmer backs calls for inquiry into Nottingham attacks

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has backed calls for an inquiry into the Nottingham attacks (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has backed calls for an inquiry into the Nottingham attacks (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Sir Keir Starmer has added his voice to calls for an inquiry into any failings that led to the Nottingham attacks.

It comes as it emerged that the Attorney General is considering whether judges should review the sentence of Nottingham knifeman Valdo Calocane after receiving a submission that it could be unduly lenient.

A judge handed down a hospital order to the 32-year-old, who has paranoid schizophrenia and whose pleas to manslaughter by diminished responsibility were accepted earlier this week.

The families of the three people he killed have reacted angrily to the sentencing and accused prosecutors of a “fait accompli” in accepting a manslaughter charge rather than pursuing a murder verdict.

They also said the search would continue for answers from police, health authorities and the Crown Prosecution Service about “missed opportunities”.

Sir Keir, a former head of the Crown Prosecution Service, called the deaths “absolutely awful” as he backed the demand for a inquiry into the case.

The Labour leader told ITV’s This Morning programme: “As far as the sentence is concerned, obviously there are mental health issues in this particular case, and the Attorney General has got the power to review it and I think that probably makes sense and have it double checked by the Court of Appeal.

Emma Webber
Emma Webber, mother of Barnaby Webber, was scathing of authorities in remarks made outside court (Jacob King/PA)

“But I think alongside the sentence, I am very worried by what appear to be a number of points at which action could have been taken that would have prevented this happening.

“The family are saying that needs to be an inquiry into that. I think they’re right about that. I think somebody outside of this independent needs to look at exactly what happened, what were the points of which there could have been an intervention and why it didn’t happen. That is the least that these families are owed.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has so far resisted ordering an independent review.

A Number 10 spokeswoman said: “We believe that it’s important that as the first action, that the relevant agencies look back and ensure that all the proper processes were followed and that reasonable steps that could have been taken were taken, to ensure that where there are lessons to be learned we do so.

“That is the first thing that needs to happen.”

Valdo Calocane court case
Emma Webber, mother of Barnaby Webber making a statement alongside relatives of the victims, outside Nottingham Crown Court on Thursday (Jacob King/PA)

But a spokesman for Attorney General Victoria Prentis confirmed her office had received a referral arguing the sentence administered on Thursday had been unduly lenient.

It gives the Cabinet minister 28 days from sentencing to review the request and decide whether to refer the case to the Court of Appeal to decide whether the sentence was appropriate.

Judge Mr Justice Turner said Calocane would “very probably” be detained in a high-security hospital for the rest of his life as he sentenced him for the “atrocious” killings, as well as the attempted murder of three others.

Emma Webber, mother of student Barnaby Webber, 19, who was killed alongside his friend Grace O’Malley-Kumar, also 19, and school caretaker Ian Coates, 65, on June 13 last year, was critical of the decision by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to downgrade the charge from murder.

Speaking on the steps outside Nottingham Crown Court after the sentencing hearing concluded, Mrs Webber said the CPS only met the bereaved families on November 24.

She said: “We were presented with a fait accompli that the decision had been made to accept manslaughter charges.

“At no point during the previous five-and-a-half-months were we given any indication that this could conclude in anything other than murder.

“We trusted in our system, foolishly as it turns out.”

The Attorney General’s considerations are unlikely to look at whether the correct charge was pursued in Calocane’s case, the PA news agency understands.

Any person or institution can ask for a sentence to be reviewed if they have reason to think it is unduly lenient.