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Northern Ireland burglary suspect still on the run after 34 years

By Adrian Rutherford

Published 19/05/2015

Nearly 1,500 individuals have been at large for at least a decade
Nearly 1,500 individuals have been at large for at least a decade

Thousands of suspected criminals are dodging justice after disappearing while on bail in Northern Ireland, it can be revealed.

Some of them are still on the run more than three decades after they vanished.

The suspects are linked to almost 13,000 crimes, including dozens of sex offences.

Nearly 1,500 individuals have been at large for at least a decade.

The figures have been branded "embarrassing", with justice officials accused of allowing people to vanish into thin air.

An investigation by this newspaper found:

Some 4,198 suspects linked to 12,886 crimes are on the run across Northern Ireland.

They include 54 alleged sex offenders, 39 suspected robbers and 219 people linked to drug crimes.

Fifteen suspected sex offenders have been at large for more than a decade, two of them for more than 20 years.

The worst case is a burglary suspect who is still missing after 34 years.

The figures were obtained by this newspaper after a Freedom of Information request.

Politicians joined with victims campaigners in calling for action.

DUP peer Lord Morrow said: "These figures are nothing short of disgraceful.

"Whilst these persons remain at large, victims are starved of due process and the longer that goes on, the more faith in the justice system diminishes."

A court will issue an arrest warrant if a suspect fails to show.

However, the figures obtained by this newspaper show thousands of alleged criminals are disappearing off the radar.

Lord Morrow said he would be demanding answers about what is being done to track down those at large. "Apart from halting the judicial process due to their absence, there is the potential risk to the public, but we cannot be told of such risks as it would apparently breach the accused's human rights," he added.

"A number of people of this magnitude cannot simply evaporate into thin air. I find it incredible they have vanished without trace or have absorbed themselves into a different area without raising the slightest suspicion."

The Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA said victims risked being retraumatised by the authorities' failure to ensure suspects' whereabouts.

"That is injustice at its worst and an appalling indictment of our society," he added.

A breakdown of the 4,189 missing suspects shows 775 are wanted for offences against the person.

This can include assault, wounding with intent and grievous bodily harm.

Another 233 are wanted over burglary, 476 for criminal damage and 197 are suspected fraudsters.

Most of the missing suspects are linked to more than one crime.

The longest outstanding warrant is for a burglary suspect wanted over an offence in 1982.

Other extreme examples include a suspect in a theft 33 years ago and someone linked to a motoring offence 32 years ago.

Geraldine Hanna from Victim Support NI said the absence of justice caused great distress for victims of crime.

"What these figures don't show is the victims behind these crimes," she said.

"The people who, having placed their faith in the justice system, are now left terrified and worried."

54: Number of alleged sex offenders who are on the run from the authorities

775: Suspects are wanted for offences against the person

219: Number of people on the run who are being sought for drugs crimes

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