Belfast Telegraph

Spotted by an eagle-eyed parent... the paedophile who travelled miles to watch young children swim in pool

Outrage as high risk sex offender given further probation

By Michael Donnelly and Deborah McAleese

A Monitored paedophile who travelled across Northern Ireland to watch young children in a swimming pool was only caught after a chance encounter with a holidaymaker.

High risk sex offender Robert John Liddle (63), who has convictions for sexually abusing young girls, was spotted watching children at a Co Antrim pool by a woman from his home county of Fermanagh who was aware of his offending history.

Liddle was being risk-managed within the community when, unknown to probation or police, he travelled from his home at Moorlough Road in Lisnaskea to the Clare Road Silver Cliffs Holiday Village in Ballycastle to look at young children in the pool on July 29 last year. A judge said yesterday that although on this occasion the sex offender had not harmed any child, “he may have done something else” given the opportunity.

At the time of the offence, retired lorry driver Liddle was subject to a Sexual Offences Prevention Order (Sopo) — which means his movements were restricted and his behaviour monitored by a police or probation officer — after the PSNI raised concern about potential to reoffend.

Yesterday, Antrim Crown Court Judge Corrine Philpott QC decided not to impose a custodial sentence, instead sentencing Liddle to three years probation after he admitted breaching his Sopo by going to the holiday park “which afforded him access to a child or young person”.

The judge told Liddle that the probation order, during which he will undergo an intensive sex offenders’ programme, including one-to-one supervision, was the best way “to keep the public safe”.

Earlier the judge said that “any sentence I would give him for this is not going to be significantly lengthy to treat the underlying issues, that he has to realise he is not to be in the vicinity of any swimming pools or children's play grounds”.

However, politicians have said the handling of this case raises serious questions over the management of sex offenders.

DUP MLA Lord Morrow (below) said: “This case shows there is something wrong with the system. This sex offender was supposed to be being monitored and yet he was able to travel across Northern Ireland and reoffend. He was only caught out because of the good work of a member of the public. And how does a court deal with it? By putting him back out in the community to be managed again.”

Lord Morrow added: “If a court believes this is the best way to deal with a high risk paedophile who has reoffended then something is very wrong. The public will be outraged by this, as I am.”

Stormont justice committee member Jim Wells added: “The only way to stop high risk sex offenders offending is to lock them up until they no longer pose a risk to the public. I do not think community sentences in these cases send out the right message. This man clearly broke the terms of a previous order and if it had not been for the good work of this member of the public, he could have been involved in much more.”

Liddle has previous convictions for sexually abusing children.

In 2000 he was described as a “high risk” and a “danger to young girls” after he was jailed for two years for indecently assaulting an 11-year-old. At that time he was placed on the Sex Offenders’ Register for 10 years.

When his time on the register lapsed, a five-year Sopo was granted after a police inspector told a judge during a court application in March 2010: “The difficulty is, this man is using public transport every day, travelling through Ireland. Nobody knows him or the dangers posed by him.”

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