Questions were mounting today over why Northern Ireland’s justice system released a dangerous sex offender, with a history of absconding, back into the community on licence despite warnings he would go on the run again.
Last month the Belfast Telegraph raised serious concerns about the release of Paul Hunter Redpath who has absconded just weeks after being given a “final chance” by a judge who released him from custody to reside at a probation hostel which he was only permitted to leave for one hour a day. This is the second time he has fled from a probation hostel.
A major manhunt was continuing today to track down the 37-year-old who has a conviction for sexually assaulting two teenage sisters in County Down.
Police have not said how long Redpath, who is known to abuse alcohol and is considered to pose a serious risk to vulnerable children and young people, has been missing. They said numerous attempts have been made to locate him and have warned the public not to approach him.
Redpath, from Agnew Crescent in Stranraer, was jailed in 2006 for three years after he pleaded guilty to sexually abusing the young sisters, aged 13 and 15, at waste ground on the Killough Road in Downpatrick.
He was released just months into his sentence because of remission and time already served on remand and was due to start a three-year probation programme but went on the run within hours. He turned up in the Republic and after he was caught he was put on licence in December, but again breached the terms of that licence by drinking.
Last month at Belfast Crown Court Redpath was dealt with for that breach with her Honour Judge McReynolds imposing strict licence conditions after hearing a south Belfast probation-run hostel was willing to accept him.
She told Redpath, who has been ordered to sign the police sex offenders register for life, that for the next month he was not allowed to leave the hostel for any more than an hour at a time. She warned him he was in “the last chance saloon”.
At the time Eileen Kelly of the Rape Crisis Centre raised serious concern about his release, saying he could not be trusted to adhere to his licence conditions and warned that he could easily flee the jurisdiction within the space of an hour.
SDLP MP for South Belfast Alisdair McDonnell said today that an investigation needs to be launched into how Redpath was free to abscond again.
“I have very serious concerns about this. How can a man who has absconded before be free to abscond again? I understand this is a difficult case and this man had served his sentence but questions really need to be asked about the monitoring of these type of offenders.
“We need very stringent management as the public needs to be assured that this will not keep happening,” he said.
DUP MLA Jimmy Spratt said: “I have very serious concerns about this case and it needs to be looked at by all the authorities involved to see what has gone wrong. Why was someone like this not electronically tagged if he had to be out in the community?”
The PSNI has appealed to the public for help in tracking Redpath down. He is described as 6ft 1in tall, of slim build with dark spiked hair. He has blue eyes, a fair complexion and speaks with a Scottish accent. He has a piercing in his left eyebrow and when last seen was wearing jeans and a cream T-shirt with writing on the front.
A police spokeswoman said the public should not approach him and should contact them immediately if they believe they have information as to his whereabouts.