MAJOR failings by inexperienced probation staff led to a psychopath wrongly being freed from jail to go on a sex attack spree, inspectors have found.

Joseph McCann was handed 33 life sentences and jailed for a minimum term of 30 years in December last year for the string of attacks on 11 women and children.

His horrific crimes included the rape of a 71-year-old woman he abducted from Morrisons’ car park in Ramsbottom.

Officials were warned as early as 2011 that he had the hallmarks of a sex offender – and probation officers were found to have missed eight chances to keep him behind bars.

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland asked Chief Inspector of Probation, Justin Russell to carry out an independent review of the case.

In the first of two reports from the review, Mr Russell said there were “major failings” in how McCann was supervised and this was carried out by an “unstable team” of staff.

McCann saw 10 staff over 11 years with three different probation officers responsible for his case in the months leading up to his prison release in February 2019.

An internal review published by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) in March laid bare the errors made in the case, including repeated failures to recall him to prison despite officials warning of the risks he posed.

Described by his sentencing judge as a “classic psychopath”, the 34-year-old convicted burglar had been freed after a probation service error two months before he embarked on the cocaine and vodka-fuelled rampage.

Had he been recalled to prison, he would have been kept behind bars until the Parole Board decided he was safe to release. Instead, he was automatically freed from jail after serving his term.

He was seen by probation officers 10 times in two months since his release, the last in April being just days before he carried out the first rape.

Over 15 days, he abducted, raped and assaulted victims aged between 11 and 71 in Watford, London and the North West.

A jury found him guilty of 37 charges relating to 11 victims, including eight rapes, false imprisonment and kidnap.

One member of staff was demoted over the case.

Mr Russell said: “McCann was managed by an unstable team, lacking experienced and skilled practitioners. They suffered from poor management oversight, high workloads, poor performance and high staff turnover.”

McCann had a “long history of serious offending” and breaching court orders, he said, adding: “There were signs that he posed an increasing risk to the public. There was evidence of his potential for sexual offending.”

Crucial information, recorded on different systems by various authorities, was “lost” in handovers between staff, Mr Russell said.

But “most worryingly” prison staff did not share information about the risk posed by McCann with probation, meaning probation staff did “not have a clear picture” of who they were dealing with and were making decisions based on “inadequate” assessments.

Another “key element” of planning for such a high risk offender to leave prison was making sure he had suitable accommodation.

He should have been given a bed in a bail hostel, known as approved premises, where he could be monitored by probation after being freed.

But after probation officers twice “tried, and failed” to get him a space he was instead allowed to live with family where he could not be monitored closely, Mr Russell said.

Among 13 recommendations made to the Prison and Probation Service and the National Probation Service, Mr Russell called for more beds at approved premises.

Mr Russell added: “Probation staff must have the right skills, knowledge and experience to support rehabilitation and protect the public.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “These were horrendous crimes and we have apologised to the victims for the unacceptable failings in this case.

“We have greatly improved information sharing between prisons and probation officers and all probation staff have received new, mandatory training on when offenders should be recalled.

“We’ve also bolstered frontline staff, with 800 probation officers in training to help keep the public safe.”

The second part of the review is due to be published in the autumn.