THE life sentences passed yesterday on the murderers of two French students in London were immediately followed by revelations that one of the two guilty men had been under the supervision of the London probation service following his release after serving an eight year sentence for violence and robbery. Danno Sonnex, 23, and Nigel Farmer, 34, indulged in an orgy of blood-letting that left the two students with a total of 244 stab wounds.

When Sonnex was released on licence from his earlier jail sentence he quickly re-offended and should have been returned to prison. However it took the official services 33 days to find him -- during which time he joined with Farmer in the murders. The responsibility of keeping an eye on Sonnex had been given to a newly qualified probation officer who was struggling with a case load of 127 offenders in an understaffed office in Lewisham. London's chief probation officer, Dan Scott, resigned in February when the facts of the case became known and the Justice Minister, Jack Straw, has apologised in person to the families of the two murdered students.

This is yet another tragic case where London's preventive care services fail to do their job in a professional way. Is it shortage of staff, lack of training, inadequate funding or poor leadership and indifference? Or all of these?