Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Johnston rape case should raise alarm

Some crimes beggar belief. Those involving 26-year-old Barry Johnston are cases in point. He was jailed for raping his own aunt and then, just days after being released from prison, raped a 75-year-old woman at knifepoint.

Those were heinous crimes and finally Johnston has got the justice he deserved, a life term. He must serve at least 10 years before being considered for release.

Sadly he was not locked up for long enough first time around. Although sentenced to eight years, he was released having served just three years of that. This was a man who has shown no remorse for his crimes and who has refused to co-operate with the authorities, even with his own doctors, and who has declined one-to-one counselling. Surely alarm bells should have rung at his behaviour.

To the layman he seems like a ticking time-bomb and a danger to women, particularly elderly women, whenever he is free. Many people will wonder how the courts did not take notice of the warning signs first time around and impose a stiffer sentence which would have kept him in prison longer even with remission. Sexual crimes, particularly against the very young and the very old, are particularly repugnant and deserve the harshest punishment, especially if the offence is accompanied by violence or the threat of violence.

There is also concern that Johnston was not sufficiently monitored upon his release from prison to prevent him reoffending. The public will wonder what controls and supervision exist on sexual offenders to keep them in check. Of course no system is foolproof, but for someone like Johnston to be able to attack another victim so soon after leaving jail points to a worrying lapse in the management of offenders. The authorities must learn lessons from this case, not only in sentencing policies, but also in the supervision of offenders after they have served their jail terms.

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