Belfast Telegraph

Sex attacker to stay in jail until he’s no longer a threat

By Michael Donnelly

A man described as a dangerous sex offender has been told he will only be released from prison when he no longer poses a risk to women.



In one of the first cases of its kind in Northern Ireland, Dungannon Crown Court Judge David McFarland told Thomas Christopher Charles Ward (24), of The Glen, Coalisland, that the sentence was to protect the public.

The judge said he had no confidence that Ward, who had breached previous suspended sentences, probation and court orders, would comply with any new order he might make.

Ward was told that he would serve at least two years, after which it would be up to the Parole Commissioners to decide if and when it would be safe enough to release him.

Ward, convicted in January of attacking a middle-aged jogger on February 11 last year, was originally jailed for four years for brutally attacking a woman after luring her into his car on St Patrick’s Day 2006.

Already on the Sex Offenders' Register for life and once classed as a Category Three sex-offender — the most serious — Ward logged up to 13 separate breaches of sentences and court orders since his original sentencing.

Judge McFarland said there were similarities between the two attacks, in which Ward had targeted his lone victims, who fortunately managed to escape serious assault through their own brave actions and good fortune, rather than anything he did.

However, the judge added he had no doubt that on this second occasion, Ward had intended to carry out a more serious assault on his victim.

His trial in January heard that Ward had followed the woman for about a mile as she jogged around Cookstown.

Judge McFarland said the woman naturally began to panic and in an effort to evade Ward, suddenly turned and tried to run past him, only for him to reach out and grab her. But she managed to brush him aside as she screamed for help and ran to a nearby house.

Judge McFarland said that given Ward's previous convictions and breaches of court orders, he posed a danger to the public and had potential to cause serious harm.

He added that an extended sentence was not appropriate in his case, as he would have to be released after serving half of any sentence imposed, although his period on supervised licensed parole would be extended.

Judge McFarland said such a sentence would not be enough to protect the public, and so imposed “a sentence of public protection”, whereby he would be sentenced to a statutory minimum period of two years.

The judge added that on his release it would be up to the Department of Justice to decide on licence conditions. Ward is barred from working with children or vulnerable adults.

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