The husband of a woman killed by a convicted sex offender has said he is astonished that Liam Adams is getting 50% remission.
However, Liam Adams (58) will serve just half of his sentence under the old 50% remission rules because of when his offences took place – between 1977 and 1983.
Michael Harron, whose wife Attracta was raped and murdered by sex offender Trevor Hamilton on her way to Mass in 2003, said he could not believe a sex offender was benefiting from the rule.
He fronted a high-profile Belfast Telegraph campaign to end 50% remission for sex offenders and saw the law overturned so that convicted sex offenders would not receive 50% remission. "I am astounded that the law that the Belfast Telegraph and I campaigned for, and that was supported by 80,000 people who signed our petition, does not apply to Liam Adams," he said, days before the 10th anniversary of his wife's murder. "We campaigned against sex offenders. I sat in Parliament and watched that new law going through.
"Then they had me in the House of Lords the next night, when the law was enacted.
"So this was just the weirdest thing that I could not understand. Has 50% remission come back?
"Hamilton had been out on 50% remission, he had been out for just four months when he attacked Attracta. He was just a psychopath. That was why we had the campaign – to get rid of 50% remission."
A spokesman from the Department of Justice said: "Following a review of the sentencing framework, the Criminal Justice (Northern Ireland) Order 2008 legislated for a new determinate custodial sentence and introduced compulsory supervision on licence for offenders on release.
"These provisions do not apply to those convicted of offences committed prior to their commencement in April 2009.
"Liam Adams was sentenced under the previous sentencing framework. He received a custody probation order – 16 years' prison sentence followed by two years' probation.
"If he does not comply with the terms of the probation element he can be breached and returned to custody. He will be eligible for 50% remission of the custodial element of the sentence."
Attracta Harron (65) vanished while walking home from Mass in Strabane in December 2003. The retired librarian's body was discovered four months later in a makeshift grave. She had been battered to death. Convicted sex offender Trevor Hamilton (23) from Sion Mills was convicted of her murder in 2006, which had taken place less than four months after he was released from prison. He pleaded guilty to raping, assaulting and threatening to kill a woman (29) in 2000, when he was 17.
Sex offenders with get-out-of-jail card despite law change
BY CHRIS KILPATRICK
Automatic 50% remission for any offence was ended in Northern Ireland five years ago following a high-profile campaign by the Belfast Telegraph.
The Criminal Justice Northern Ireland Order came on the back of this newspaper's Justice For Attracta campaign, fronted by the pensioner's grieving husband Michael.
However, Liam Adams is eligible for automatic 50% remission because that was the sentencing guideline that applied at the time of the brutal sex attacks on his daughter.
Automatic remission for all prisoners serving fixed sentences in Northern Ireland was increased to 50% in 1976, compared to 33% in the rest of the UK.
In 1988 remission on sentences of five years or more on people convicted of terrorist-related offences was reduced from 50% to 33%, excluding sex offences
Remission was then, in 1995, increased from 33% to 50% for certain individuals convicted of terror-related offences.
In the same year the Northern Ireland Secretary of State was given the power to revoke a person's licence and recall them to prison in certain circumstances.
Their role was concerned only with terrorist offences.
Following Mrs Harron's murder, tens of thousands of people signed up to this paper's Justice For Attracta campaign, demanding an end to 50% remission.
In 2008, 50% remission for all offences was ended. However, those who committed offences prior to the change in legislation can still benefit from the chance to have their sentence halved, much to the anger of victims and families, like the Harrons.
Last week a former scout leader was jailed for sexually abusing children.
He is also set to benefit from 50% remission.
Colin Finnegan (left) sexually abused five youngsters over a 16-year period up to November 1997.
On Wednesday he was sentenced to 11 years, after a third trial. Judge Gordon Kerr QC told the 44-year-old that it was "chilling to note you still maintain your denials and consider yourself the victim".
One of his victims hit out at the 50% remission rule which could mean Finnegan is back on the streets in five-and-a-half-years.
"I think the sentence is lenient," he said.
The victim said he believed Lurgan paedophile Finnegan's victims could number up to 100.