Belfast Telegraph

Monday 29 December 2014

Belfast Telegraph challenge exposes prolific sex offender who tried to keep his identity a secret

A judge has ruled there is no valid reason for David Cahill to remain anonymous
A judge has ruled there is no valid reason for David Cahill to remain anonymous
David Cahill tries to hide his identity

The identity of a prolific sex offender can be revealed to the public following a legal battle fought by the Belfast Telegraph.

Convicted rapist David Sidney Cahill (37), of Community Walk in Mosside, near Ballymoney, had sought to keep his identity hidden despite committing a string of sex offences.

In a written submission to District Judge Liam McNally at Coleraine Magistrates Court yesterday, lawyers for Cahill unsuccessfully argued that if his offending came to light his life could be in danger from loyalist paramilitaries.

They based this on reports which alleged that another convicted sex offender was injured after being shot by loyalists in the Ballycastle area earlier this year. They said that as Cahill's home was not far away, he too could come under attack.

However, in a written submission the Belfast Telegraph's lawyers said courts have to be open and the public had a right to know about Cahill's behaviour.

A police sergeant told the court she could offer no evidence of a "specific risk" to Cahill, but it was her view that there was always a "generic" risk to any registered sex offender.

Judge McNally ruled in the Telegraph's favour, saying there was substantial case law stating openness was an important principle of justice.

He agreed there may be a "generic risk" to Cahill but found no evidence of a "real and immediate risk" to the defendant.

Cahill had previously pleaded guilty to using an unregistered mobile phone between November last year and May 16 this year in breach of his Sexual Offences Prevention Order, which as a registered sex offender he was governed by.

He was jailed for four months, but was released from court pending an appeal.

Earlier, prosecution lawyer Rhonda Boyd told the court Cahill was deemed a level one sex offender and had been convicted of rape in 2000. Prior to that he had a record for "indecent behaviours".

Since his release from jail for rape, she said Cahill had "been of concern" to the authorities.

Ms Boyd said that under the terms of the Sexual Offences Prevention Order, Cahill was only allowed a mobile phone if it was registered with his risk manager, and police had the right to inspect its contents.

However, Cahill attempted to bypass that by using an internet-enabled phone belonging to his elderly bed-bound mother, unbeknown to her. He is her registered carer.

Ms Boyd said the PSNI was informed by Scottish police earlier this year that a male was using an internet sex chatroom linked to an offender they were monitoring and he was using a telephone number which was registered to Cahill's mother.

Cahill later admitted to police he used the phone to access sex chatrooms but denied using his mother's mobile to avoid detection.

Defence lawyer Francis Rafferty said there was no suggestion of Cahill going into the internet sex chatroom for "grooming or anything of a more reprehensible nature".

He said Cahill now had contact with Nexus, an organisation that provides counselling for the victims of sexual violence, and had been moved from a category one to a category two risk.

Jailing Cahill, Judge McNally said he had an "appalling" record.

A victory for common sense in anonymity tug-of-war

By Paul Connolly

Nothing is ever certain in the swings-and-roundabouts battle for media freedom, but yesterday's court ruling in response to the Belfast Telegraph's challenge gives more than a crumb of comfort.

When convicted rapist David Sidney Cahill sought to keep his name secret because of an alleged general threat to sex offenders in his area, it was a familiar refrain and one that will doubtless be cited again here in our less-than-robust approach to open justice.

Cahill was seeking an Anonymity Order and Reporting Restriction on the basis of Article 2 (Right to Life) and Article 8 (Privacy) of the European Convention of Human Rights.

In my opinion, what he was attempting to argue was that Northern Ireland is a special case; that people convicted of appalling crimes here shouldn't be named because of a general or theoretical risk of attack from paramilitaries.

Cahill was unable to demonstrate a specific threat against him, and the judge has clearly indicated he holds no truck with assumed or generalised threats. There is a generally held legal view that when risk is cited it should be real, objectively verified, present and continuing. In other words – as the Americans might say – "clear and present danger".

Clear and present danger means something that is manifestly about to happen and happen very soon. The courts across the water take a very robust view of this – particularly with convicted adult defendants, seen most recently in the naming of the Royal Marine convicted of shooting dead a Taliban prisoner.

Indeed, I cannot think of a case in GB where the courts have banned the naming of a convicted adult defendant. Not a single one.

Unfortunately, such a case exists here. It is known as ZY v Higgins and the upshot was a man convicted of sex offences has been allowed to keep his identity secret.

There is also a disturbing ongoing case in Belfast this year in which a woman accused of murdering her baby has been allowed so far to keep both her name and that of the tragic baby secret. It is the first case in the UK, as far as I can ascertain, in which the public has been banned from knowing the name of a murder victim.

In both these cases, the defendants argue that they are at increased likelihood of killing themselves if they are named in the media.

If David Cahill had triumphed yesterday, Northern Ireland would have moved one step further down a slippery slope in which ultimately much reporting of our courts would be impossible because of a perceived generalised threat from paramilitaries – 20 years after the IRA and loyalist ceasefires. Chalk one up to common sense.

Paul Connolly is the Belfast Telegraph Readers' Editor

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