Prisoner Freed Without Mental Health Aid Before Knife Rampage

Credits: Daily

A university worker was tragically killed on a night out by a paranoid schizophrenic who had been released from prison months earlier without adequate support for his serious mental illness, a coroner has ruled.

Jacob Billington, 23, a graduate worker at Sheffield Hallam University, was fatally attacked, and his lifelong friend Michael Callaghan was seriously injured, during a 90-minute rampage through Birmingham city centre in the early hours of September 6, 2020, by Zephaniah McLeod, who was 27 at the time of the attacks and lived in Nately Grove in Selly Oak.

McLeod was sentenced to life with a minimum term of 21 years at Birmingham Crown Court in 2021 after admitting the manslaughter of Mr. Billington, from Crosby, Merseyside, and four counts of attempted murder along with three charges of wounding.

Prisoner (Credits: The Independent)

During the two-week inquest into Mr. Billington’s death, it was revealed that McLeod had a long history of offending and had been known to mental health services since being diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in 2012.

However, he did not regularly engage with mental health services or take his prescribed medication, both inside and outside of prison.

Despite being deemed a high risk of serious harm to other people, McLeod was released from HMP Parc in South Wales on April 22, 2020, after a three-year prison sentence for drug and firearm offences, without any support in place for his mental health and with no fixed address in Birmingham.

Senior coroner for Birmingham and Solihull, Louise Hunt, highlighted several failures in the management of McLeod’s release and care, including the premature ending of multi-agency public protection arrangements (Mappa) without a coordinated release plan and the failure to conduct a risk assessment or put a care plan in place by the mental health in-reach team at HMP Parc.

Mrs. Hunt expressed her condolences to Mr. Billington’s family and friends, acknowledging the impact of the inquest on them and expressing hope that lessons can be learned from Jacob’s tragic death.

She also announced her intention to write a report to prevent future deaths, focusing on the management of high-risk prisoners’ releases and the lack of inter-agency working and information sharing.

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