Fears have been raised over the safety of the justice system after a violent criminal abducted and raped a Chester woman just days after being released from jail.
Convicted kidnapper Peter Watton ambushed a female jogger dragging her into the woodland and repeatedly raped her in a terrifying nine-hour abduction which left her fearing for her life.
Watton, of Henley Road, Lache, had only been released on licence for two days from HMP Risley, when he lay in wait for the woman dragging her into the bushes in broad daylight off Duke’s Drive, Chester, on June 14 last year.
Now, after the muscular 37-year-old was found guilty of raping his victim eight times, sexually assaulting her with objects and threatening her with a knife during the abduction, victim support groups have said questions must be asked as to why Watton was allowed to roam the streets.
Cheshire Probation Service says it has carried out a detailed review to see whether ‘lessons can be learned’ after the jury heard Watton’s string of serious violent offences, including the attempted road-side kidnapping of a woman in Crewe back in 1999 while impersonating a police officer.
Watton was halfway through serving a six-year prison sentence for kidnapping and robbing teenagers in Crewe when he was released. He went on to rape the jogger while she was running with her dog.
His licensing conditions didn’t include an electronic tag or curfew, he had to reside at his mother’s Lache address and sign on at Cheshire Probation Service, the jury heard.
Andy Hall, Victim Support divisional manager for Chester, said: “This was a horrific case in which a woman was abducted by a stranger and repeatedly raped.
“The victim has shown real courage in reporting her attacker and giving powerful evidence of the abuse she suffered at the hands of Peter Watton, which has resulted in his conviction.
“While we don’t know the background and detail which led to Watton being released early from another prison sentence he was serving, it does appear that questions should be asked – and the particular circumstances scrutinised – to ensure any lessons are learned.”
Chester MP Stephen Mosley, who regularly walks down Duke’s Drive with his children and dogs, called for greater care in making sure sentences were sufficient for violent crimes.
Mr Mosley said: “The problem we have is when offenders leave prison, we want them to reform and there has to be some way to allow them to do that.”
He added the local community had been shocked by the violent attack.
“He was initially sentenced to six years, everyone knows there is a chance of parole halfway through. There has to be a system in place to encourage people to reform and behave while in prison.
“But you have to make sure the initial sentence is severe enough, so we don’t have a situation where people are being released too early.”
A Probation Service spokesperson said: “Our deepest sympathies go to the victim and her family following this abhorrent crime. We are determined to have the best possible systems in place to supervise offenders in the community and work hard to manage risk but sadly it can never be completely eliminated.
“As with any case involving a serious further offence, a detailed review has been carried out to identify if any lessons can be learned for the future.”