A leading campaigner against sex abuse has said victims of a Sunderland serial rapist must be put at the centre of discussions before their attacker is released.
Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria, Dame Vera Baird QC has called for the move to ensure those who were targeted by Kevin Lakeman are consulted before he is allowed out of prison.
It comes after a number of his victims said they had not been told Lakeman is to be freed and only discovered the decision had been made by the Parole Board through the Echo.
His release is expected to happen some time this month, 23 years after he was put behind bars.
He was caught with the help of DNA evidence following offences committed over a 13-year period.
Lakeman, then 31 of Ribble Road, Red House, was told he would serve a minimum of 12 years when he was jailed in 1995 at Newcastle Crown Court for three rapes and an attempted rape dating back to December 1981, with a life sentence for each.
All Lakeman’s victims and their families should be consulted in advance, offered these opportunities and given reassurance and support ahead of his release.Dame Vera Baird QC
A dozen cases were left on file, eight were rape charges and four were in relation to attempted rape, with 10 other sex charges against him dropped.
Several of Lakeman’s victims have spoken out since it emerged he is to be released and have said it will leave them looking over their shoulders and living in fear that they could come face-to-face with him if he is allowed to return to his home city.
One has been shown a map which sets out an exclusion zone around the area where she lives, raising concerns he will know that is where one of the women he preyed on now resides.
Dame Vera, who has made tackling domestic and sexual abuse one of her priorities since her election in 2012, told the Echo: “Victims’ needs should be at the centre of the Criminal Justice process throughout and are especially important in any decision to release an offender.
“Licence conditions should be designed with input from victims to ensure that they do not spend their days in fear of coming across someone who has caused them hurt and damage in the past.
“Offenders on licence should be closely monitored to ensure they adhere to conditions.
“This is the right position for all victims, irrespective of a CPS decision to let a case remain on file and not take it to court.
“Such decisions can be made for a number of reasons, which have little to do with the victim’s situation.
“All Lakeman’s victims and their families should be consulted in advance, offered these opportunities and given reassurance and support ahead of his release.”
The Echo has been told victims who signed up to the Victims Contact Scheme (VCS) have been contacted and were invited to make representations to the Parole Board on licence conditions, specifically on contact and exclusion zones.
Several victims declined contact from the Victim Contact Service - they can opt back in if they wish.