Devlin parents in no remission call
Knife criminals 'must not get early jail release'
Published 19/10/2007 | 11:19
The family of murdered schoolboy Thomas Devlin today urged the judiciary to ensure that anyone jailed for carrying a knife is not freed under 50% remission when the policy is scrapped for sex offenders and violent criminals next year.
Thomas' parents, Penny Holloway and Jim Devlin, said that the courts have to make it clear that anyone caught carrying a knife will be dealt with severely.
Fifteen-year-old Thomas was stabbed to death as he made his way back to his north Belfast home after going to buy sweets with friends in August 2005.
To date nobody has been charged with Thomas' murder, however it is hoped that a new poster campaign recently launched by the PSNI and Thomas' parents will encourage those with information about the killers to come forward.
"We were pleased to hear that the abolition of automatic 50% remission was announced this week, however we are concerned that it is not being introduced until next year," said Penny.
She added: "I really hope that the judiciary uses these new measures properly. The judiciary has to make people who carry knives understand that they will be punished and not automatically entitled to early release."
Criminal Justice Minister Paul Goggins has said that the controversial policy of automatic 50% remission for sex offenders and dangerous criminals will be scrapped by May 2008.
Anyone who is deemed a risk to the public will not be entitled to early release under the tough new public safety legislation.
The abolition of automatic 50% remission was announced by former Criminal Justice Minister David Hanson almost one year ago after 35,000 people signed up to the Belfast Telegraph's Justice For Attracta campaign.
The campaign, which called for an immediate end to automatic 50% remission for sex offenders and violent criminals, was launched after rapist-turned-killer Trevor Hamilton murdered Strabane pensioner Attracta Harron shortly after he was released from jail halfway through a seven-year sentence for rape.
Although Mr Goggins said he cannot rush the new legislation through in case it does not work properly, there is concern that the laws will not be implemented for another six months.
"The NIO's dilatory approach to this serious issue, even in the context of scandalous recent examples, cannot be excused," said SDLP Leader Mark Durkan.
He added: "The amending legislation now required would not be controversial or questionable in the way that other government legislation has been. We need the NIO to stop dithering and get on with delivering."