Belfast Telegraph

Killer on the loose: But prison service didn't give full details to protect his right to privacy

By Chris Kilpatrick

Details about a convicted murderer who was on the run from a Northern Ireland prison for almost a month were kept from the public due to concerns for his right to privacy.

William Sloan, who is originally from Dundonald, was given temporary release from Maghaberry Prison last month.

But the 51-year-old, jailed for his role in a brutal hammer attack on a man in 1989, failed to return to custody by Friday, November 21.

He remained at large until he handed himself into police in Manchester on Saturday.

Jimmy Hamilton (39) died after being beaten in his Harrow Street home, just off the Shankill Road.

The attackers then ransacked his house.

DUP peer Lord Morrow asked Justice Minister David Ford to give details about Sloan, including the terms of his temporary release, whether he had similar releases in the past and, if so, whether any breaches had taken place.

In response, Lord Morrow was told: "To release the information requested would be contrary to the Data Protection Act 1998."

The senior unionist politician last night said the public's right to know outweighed the rights of Sloan. He added: "The answer from the Justice Minister in respect of William Sloan is highly unsatisfactory.

"I do not accept the issue of Data Protection outweighs the rights of the public to be fully informed of this individual's past.

"The public were drip-fed information which stated that Sloan is a convicted murderer and failed to return following temporary release. That's enough to merit further enquiry into the suitability of temporary release in the first place, and establish if there were any previous breaches.

"Given the length of time it took NI Prison Service to make this matter known, I cannot help but consider the citing of Data Protection is more to do with damage limitation. It's becoming a convenient way to avert awkward answers."

Sloan was 33 at the time of the murder. He was released on licence in 1999. His licence was suspended by the Northern Ireland Office in May 2006 and revoked by the sentence review commissioners in December that year. The action was taken after Sloan committed attempted arson, criminal damage and breached a non-molestation order.

A co-accused of Sloan previously said of the fatal attack on Mr Hamilton: "This fella knocked Jimmy to the ground and started kicking him. I heard Jimmy shouting, but I don't know what.

"This fella just went crazy and the other fella helped this madman carry out some of Jimmy's gear, I think a TV and stacking hi-fi.

"Before we left I remember Jimmy lying in the corner groaning in pain. After we left the house my mates left me off and I went home."

Story so far

William Sloan has been involved in criminality including assault and disorderly behaviour from the age of 13. Before his conviction for murder he had two convictions for violence and four convictions for burglary. Sloan failed to return to custody last month. The Northern Ireland Prison Service confirmed he was returned to custody after handing himself into police in Manchester on Saturday.

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