One of Northern Ireland's most serious sex offenders who went on the run, travelling through Europe on his dead brother’s passport, has been jailed for three years.
Ernest George Finlay, from Aughnacloy, sentenced for breaching his sexual offences prevention orders (SOPO), was described by Omagh Crown Court Judge David McFarland as posing a serious risk and “should be considered dangerous”.
This had been the 55-year-old’s fourth breach of a SOPO, designed to keep track of his movements following his release in 2003 after serving half of a 14-year term for raping prostitutes.
Prosecution lawyer Robin Steer said as part of the order Finlay was not allowed to leave the Dungannon/south Tyrone area without police permission, nor was he allowed to travel outside the jurisdiction.
But from May 2008 Finlay visited Banbridge and Portadown, visited a travel agent in Monaghan before moving on to Dublin and then travelling to Prague and finally to Bulgaria, where he had hoped to start a new life.
Mr Steer revealed that on his travels Finlay used the passport of his brother Robert, who had died as a youth. The passport had initially been obtained in 1990, but had been renewed in 2003 with Finlay's photograph on it.
Defence lawyer Finton McAleer said that Finlay, arrested by Garda across the border a year ago, had made full admissions and was returned to Northern Ireland. Judge McFarland said that Finlay had breached the order with the intention of circumventing the restrictions placed upon him.
The judge said while there was no evidence “of wrongdoing” when on the run, Finlay was “a serious sexual offender who has taken no steps to rehabilitate himself or to conform with the sexual offences prevention orders”.
Judge McFarland said this indicated Finlay posed a significant risk of causing serious harm and that he “should be considered dangerous”. In the circumstances, Finlay's persistent offending, he added, called for consecutive sentences in his case.
For each breach he was given a nine-month term, making a total of 36 months in jail, and upon his release he will be subject of a five-year licence which could see him returned to jail during that period for any future breach.