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Report into sex offender controls End sex beasts' 'remission right'
(about 6 hours later)
The Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice, Kit Chivers, is due to publish his verdict on the management of sex offenders in Northern Ireland. All dangerous offenders in Northern Ireland should be barred from getting automatic 50% prison remission, a new report has recommended.
The government asked him to review the issue following the murder of a County Tyrone pensioner. The government was urged to scrap the entitlement after an inquiry into attempts to increase public protection.
The Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice, Kit Chivers, assessed the management of high-risk offenders, including sex offenders.
The review followed the murder of a pensioner, killed by a paroled rapist.
Attracta Harron, 65, disappeared in December 2003. She was found dead. Trevor William Hamilton, 24, of Sion Mills was convicted of her murder.Attracta Harron, 65, disappeared in December 2003. She was found dead. Trevor William Hamilton, 24, of Sion Mills was convicted of her murder.
He had been on parole after serving a sentence for raping another woman.He had been on parole after serving a sentence for raping another woman.
In August, the NIO announced a review of the management of sex offenders. Mr Chivers' interim report stressed a key problem in the case was Hamilton's eligibility for release after serving half of his original rape sentence.
An interim report on the issue, by the Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland, will be published on Monday. "Had there been provision for parole arrangements to manage the sentence, a board would certainly have thought twice about whether Hamilton was fit to be released back into the community," it said.
Mrs Harron, a retired librarian from Strabane, vanished while walking home from Mass in Lifford, Donegal, on 11 December 2003. 'Police failures'
"But that option was not available."
With planned new sentencing arrangements due to be announced later this month, Mr Chivers' team insisted it was time to come into line with other UK regions.
"We recommend that the government should bring forward legislation that would have the effect of ending automatic 50% remission for dangerous offenders, create more scope for indeterminate sentences and generally place Northern Ireland on a similar footing to England and Wales.
"We are conscious that this would have significant resource implications, but it is the most important single step that could be taken to improve public protection."
The report also claimed the proper handling of Hamilton after his prison release had not been a high enough priority for the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
"They failed to attend the inter-agency meetings on sex offender management regularly, did not communicate adequately either internally or externally, and officers on patrol were not sufficiently alert to the danger he posed in their area," the report said.
"We have seen evidence to suggest that PSNI's management of sex offenders has improved as a result of this case, but we also highlight several areas where further progress is required."
Trevor Hamilton was one of NI's most closely monitored sex offendersTrevor Hamilton was one of NI's most closely monitored sex offenders
The body of the mother-of-five was found four months later in a makeshift grave dug into the side of a riverbank bordering Hamilton's home. Despite finding greater collaboration between the agencies, the CJI called for further co-operation.
Hamilton, of Concess Road, Sion Mills, was convicted of her murder earlier this year. Staff from the core agencies could strengthen the process by sharing an office as a co-located team, the interim report said.
He had been one of the most closely monitored sex offenders in Northern Ireland. It also warned that any high-risk offenders relocated out of hostels could face less scrutiny.
Last month, Northern Ireland's chief probation officer said more resources were needed to improve supervision of sex offenders. Although objections have been raised to the facilities in some neighbourhoods, the report said hostels were an invaluable service where curfews and room searches could be applied along with full monitoring.
Brian McCaughey said there was one member of staff to supervise every 15 sex offenders in Northern Ireland. Even though the CJI emphasised considerable progress since Mrs Harron's murder, with the agencies making public protection a higher priority, they also made another six recommendations.
These include that the police should provide wider internal access to the Visor computer system for sharing details on dangerous sex offenders; management work featuring in the Northern Ireland policing plan; the agencies starting work on an accommodation strategy; a review of legislation to allow any breaches to be dealt with faster; future serious case reviews following a more detailed format; and the CJI should be asked to undertake the most serious.
Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris welcomed the report and said it recognised that more robust measures and training for officers were now in place.
"In relation to issues regarding the police service raised in the report it is worth pointing out that action has been taken to deal with concerns raised," he said.