Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 1 March 2015

Viewpoint: While the NIO dithers...

What took them so long?

That will be the response of most people to news that the Government appears, finally, to be moving on its pledge to end automatic 50% remission for serious sex offenders.

DUP MLA Ian Paisley Jnr says he has been told by Justice Minister Paul Goggins that new legislation ending the controversial practice will be ready in weeks and could be law by the spring.

Mr Paisley and the public, however, would be forgiven a certain degree of scepticism about the apparent promise.

The fact is that a similar pledge was made by the NIO almost a year ago in response to the Belfast Telegraph's Justice For Attracta campaign.

We brought a petition signed by 35,000 readers to Downing Street and the PM personally promised us the NIO would look at the issues we raised. The NIO then promised action straight away.

But, almost a year later, we are still waiting. In that time, 80 serious sex offenders, including such vile creatures as the Castlederg rapist Eamon Foley, have walked free half-way through their sentences - many without treatment.

Any new law won't be retrospective, so an estimated 130 will walk early even if the NIO acts now. The longer the NIO dithers, the more sex offenders benefit from the current abhorrent policy.

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