Belfast Telegraph

Over half of child sex offenders not banned from working with minors

By Lesley Houston

More than half of offenders in child sex abuse cases in the past 14 years have not been banned from working with children, it has been revealed.

Now the chairman of the Assembly’s Justice Committee is calling on Justice Minister David Ford to address the alarming finding as a matter of great urgency.

DUP Assembly member Paul Givan also appealed for an urgent question in to be asked in today’s Assembly.

The worrying statistics were revealed following a review of court orders made in sexual offences cases from 1997 to 2011 by the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service.

The cases in question have since been referred on to the judiciary for further consideration.

Mr Givan highlighted that of 484 cases of sexual crimes against children, some 278 offenders were not banned from working with them.

And though each disqualification order is issued at the discretion of the individual Crown or Magistrates Court judge, there is a presumption that such an order should be made, according to the NICTS report.

The issue is understood to have come to light in a review carried out by the Court Service following the notorious case of the McDermott brothers, who were deemed mentally unfit to stand trial for abusing children over a 30 year period in Donagh, Fermanagh.

Mr Givan said the matter must be dealt with urgently.

“Of the 480-odd cases, it's been found that 57% didn't receive a disqualification order,” he said.

“(That is) despite there being a presumption that there would be one given and, where there wasn't one provided, that a reason would then be provided by the judge and that hasn't happened in over 250 cases.”

Mr Givan said he learned of the cases last Thursday night and spoke to Mr Ford on Friday.

“The minister was, I think, taken aback by the figures,” he said. “I would like him to provide more information this Thursday at the Justice Committee and I believe he shares the urgent nature of having these cases reviewed.”

He added that if his bid to speak at the Assembly failed to meet the criteria for an urgent question, it would be brought to the minister’s attention regardless on Thursday.

There was no comment from the Justice Department last night.

Factfile

In its review the NICTS stated that when dependents are convicted at Crown Court of a Schedule 1 offence under the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults (NI) “There is a presumption that the court will make a disqualification order and where a judge decides not to make such an order, he must give reasons .”

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