'Psychopath' serial rapist Joseph McCann's Blackpool crime spree saw him branded a 'serious danger' to the public

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Serial rapist Joseph McCann, given 33 life sentences for a string of horrific sex attacks on 11 women and children, was branded a "serious danger" to the public after a Blackpool crime spree.

The 34-year-old was just a baby-faced teenager when he stood in the dock after driving a car at bouncers outside the Heaven and Hell club on the Prom - before leading police on a high-speed motorway chase.

The now-closed Blackpool nightclub Heaven and Hell and, above left, McCann in 2004, and, above right, McCann now (PA/Metropolitan Police)

The now-closed Blackpool nightclub Heaven and Hell and, above left, McCann in 2004, and, above right, McCann now (PA/Metropolitan Police)

McCann, branded a "classic psychopath" as he was yesterday jailed for a minimum of 30 years, was handcuffed and had to be restrained during sentencing back in 2004, when Judge Richard Foster sent him to a young offenders' institute for five years and two months.

Judge Foster said he would be failing in his duty to the public if he didn't impose a substantial sentence, after the court heard details of McCann's orgy of violence.

After being refused entry to Heaven and Hell, which shut in January 2006 and is now Sports Direct, he told door staff: "I have got a gun in the car and I'm going to get it," and then twice drove a Vauxhall Vectra directly at them.

McCann drove off, before attacking the car of two doctors who had just arrived in the resort for a conference. He kicked and punched the bodywork of the Seat before reaching inside the window and snatching a mobile phone and some glasses.

He asked the terrified medics: "Do you want me to get my gun from the car?" and then sped off, pursued by police.

The force helicopter joined the chase for McCann as he sped along the M55 and then on to the M6 at 100mph.

Arriving in Preston, he dumped the car and, in an effort to give officers the slip, broke through the front door of a house in Merrick Avenue, Fishwick, and ran out the back.

The occupants were left petrified as armed police officers followed him through the home. Moments later, McCann was captured with the help of a police dog.

McCann, then of Watford, aimed a kick at a glass partition surrounding the dock as he was jailed for a string of offences, including aggravated vehicle taking, affray, robbery, damaging property, dangerous driving, failing to provide a breath specimen, and failing to provide a drug test sample.

While he had no prior convictions for sex offences, his other crimes included escaping custody by grabbing and threatening a female security guard with a plastic knife, possessing a blade, robbery, and two burglaries.

He received his first term behind bars at the age of 15, and had been released from prison in February following a probation service blunder - two months before he embarked on a cocaine and vodka-fueled rampage.

Over 15 days, he abducted, raped, and assaulted victims aged between 11 and 71 in Watford, London, and the north west. He allegedly used a "support network" across the country to evade police, despite being identified as a suspect on the day of his first attack.

McCann, who had addresses in Aylesbury and Harrow, refused to attend his Old Bailey trial and hid under a prison blanket rather than give evidence.

It was claimed on his behalf that the women he molested had consensual sex, but that was dismissed by his victims as "ludicrous".

On Friday, the jury deliberated for five hours to find him guilty of 37 charges, including eight rapes, false imprisonment, and kidnap.

And yesterday, McCann failed to attend his sentencing, citing a "bad back".

In his absence, Mr Justice Edis said: "This was a campaign of rape, violence, and abduction of a kind which I have never seen or heard of before.

"Joseph McCann, you are very dangerous indeed to people who are weaker than you.

"Among other things you are a coward and violent bully and a paedophile. Your grip on reality is quite tenuous, your instructions to lawyers was utterly ridiculous.

"You are entirely obsessed with yourself. In your world, other people exist only for your pleasure and you have no ability to see the world in anybody's eyes other than your own."

Following the verdicts, the probation service issued an "unreserved" apology for the mistake that saw McCann's release in February, halfway through a three-year sentence for burglary.

A probation officer was demoted after a Ministry of Justice review found McCann should have been immediately recalled to jail for an earlier offence.

Four men and two women have been arrested on suspicion of assisting McCann, and released under investigation.

Probation staff in the region where McCann was supervised operated in "chaotic conditions" due to the size of their workloads, a union leader said.

Ian Lawrence, general secretary of Napo, said staff nationally are working under "massive pressure" and called for a public inquiry into the effects of part-privatising the service four years ago.

The South East and Eastern National Probation Service (NPS), which was responsible for McCann's supervision, was one of 21 rated as requiring improvement when it was inspected in May and showed failings in key areas like workload and staffing.

In findings published in September, inspectors called on the Government to intervene after warning that probation officers handling high-risk offenders were buckling under the pressure of workload and staff shortages.

As of March, the division was supervising more than 16,000 criminals and just over 35% were proven re-offenders.

Probation officers were dealing with at least 42 cases each on average - the highest of any of the seven NPS divisions, according to the report.

Mr Lawrence said: "The chaotic conditions caused by staff shortages and workloads were not uncommon.

"The staffing levels across the NPS are at crisis levels. I'm not surprised that mistakes can be made when staff are working under massive pressure.

"When probation was part privatised in 2015 we said that the fragmentation of the service would lower morale and lead to people quitting the service, and they did.

"Napo wants a public inquiry into the whole of the impact of privatisation. We think that the people who engineered and imposed this should be called to account for what they have done."

He explained that after his release, McCann would have been supervised based on his convictions for burglary.

"He did go under the radar. The supervision would have been based on the crimes he had committed, not the suspicion he was going to commit rape."

There are currently 1,000 vacancies in the NPS across England and Wales.

The September report found that half the staff interviewed by inspectors said their workload was unmanageable and that there were 102 vacancies for officers at the time, a 16 per cent gap in expected staffing levels.

It concluded that more could be done to "identify and manage risks".

More than a third of inspected cases were not being reviewed when circumstances changed and only half were properly focused on "keeping people safe", according to the report.

It added: "Staff relied too much on the individual's explanation of their offence, rather than corroborating facts with other sources."

Nearly half (49 per cent) of inspected probation reports did not include full information about the potential risk of harm posed by criminals and factors like child safeguarding were not properly assessed.

Mr Justice Edis has called for an independent review of the failures surrounding the case.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: "We note the remarks by Mr Justice Edis relating to an independent investigation and we are carefully considering the next steps."