Belfast Telegraph

Child sex duo fail to halt review of job ban decisions

Two convicted child sex offenders who were not banned from working with children failed in a legal bid to stop sentencing judges re-examining their cases.

The men, who cannot be named to protect their victims' identities, were seeking to judicially review referrals made over apparent omissions.

Their challenge was seen as a test case for more than 250 other offenders where judges either made no disqualification order or failed to give reasons for not doing so.

Lawyers for both men contended that the Crown Court has no authority to deal with them again.

It was claimed that 56-day deadlines for remedying any oversight in the sentencing process had passed.

Frank O'Donoghue QC told two High Court judges who heard the case: "Would a disqualification order, if now imposed, constitute a variation to the sentence imposed on the applicants? If the answer to that question is yes then, in my submission, the Crown Court has absolutely no jurisdiction."

Arguments were also advanced on the role played in the decision by the Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan.

Counsel for the applicants, one of whom is still in prison, claimed that Northern Ireland's most senior judge had given a direction.

But a barrister representing the Office of the Lord Chief Justice insisted Sir Declan had agreed to the move, rather than dictating to judges what they should do.

Paul Maguire QC also pointed out that disqualification orders were obligatory and designed to ensure the future protection of children.

He said Courts Service had researched and discovered "a substantial number of cases" where a ban was not imposed or else no reasons given.

Mr Maguire described the applicants as "beneficiaries of an oversight".

"They no doubt wish to preserve the windfall advantage they have received in that it would appear, prima facie, the question of not making a disqualification order was not made by the Crown Court judge at the time of sentencing."

Dismissing both men's applications for leave to seek a judicial review, Lord Justice Coghlin, sitting with Mr Justice McLaughlin, stressed that the Lord Chief Justice had not directed the cases be re-examined.

He ruled that the Crown Court was the proper place to deal with the issues.

Lord Justice Coghlin also pointed out that there was a need for transparency so the public can see why disqualification orders should or should not be made.

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