Belfast Telegraph

Paedophile jailed for a fifth breach of order barring him from areas where children gather

Liddle at a previous court appearance
Liddle at a previous court appearance

By Staff Reporter

A paedophile from Co Fermanagh has been jailed for breaching his sexual offences prevention order (SOPO) a fifth time by being in an area where children were present.

The restriction was originally placed on serial sex offender Robert John Liddle in 2000.

The 70-year-old, from Moorlough Road, Lisnaskea, committed the offence on June 16 last year at Castle Archdale Country Park by being within 30 metres of a play area and a marina, where a number of children were present.

Dressed in navy trousers and a blue striped shirt, Liddle appeared in the dock of Dungannon Crown Court for sentencing yesterday.

A member of the public alerted police after she observed Liddle, whom she knew to be a sex offender, in the park, and noted him in close proximity to youngsters in a play area.

Over a few hours Liddle was seen in various areas of the country park, including the marina where young people ranging in ages from seven to 16 were playing in the water. At one stage he was estimated to be around one metre from the children.

He was also seen talking to a woman and her child.

When police arrested Liddle that night he said: "Is this because I was in Castle Archdale?"

During interview he accepted being at the premises where a vintage car show was being held, but denied seeing a children's play area or speaking to anyone, telling police: "I wasn't there to look at children. I was there to look at cars."

It transpired he didn't seek permission from his designated risk manager to attend the event despite being required to do so.

Liddle later accepted the breach at court.

A defence lawyer said her client has a keen interest in vintage cars and insisted he genuinely went to the park for this purpose, although accepted it was in breach of the SOPO.

She conceded there is a lengthy record, which includes four similar breaches.

Liddle has convictions for numerous indecent assaults as well as a record for outraging public decency after an "upskirting" matter.

The defence said her client suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder after witnessing "a tragic, gruesome atrocity" in a bombing during the Troubles.

However, Judge Neil Rafferty QC remarked: "PTSD doesn't make you behave like this. It does not deprive you of the ability to understand, comprehend and execute SOPO conditions.

"I would have a degree of sympathy if it were not for the previous four breaches. It's very hard to see this as anything other than a man who just won't comply with the order."

The defence said Liddle has previously engaged well with his designated risk manager, seeking permission when required to attend specific events, including last year's Balmoral Show.

He was also permitted to travel to Coleraine a few years ago, but while there went to a swimming pool, which was also a SOPO breach.

The Castle Archdale matter, however, said the defence, was not a case of Liddle "setting out to breach the order or make a menace of himself. It wasn't a fundamental breach".

But Judge Rafferty said: "That's not the point.

"These are orders are to prevent him being in a position to commit an offence. They are for public safety. Where there is a breach, there is risk."

Jailing Liddle for four months the judge said: "This has reached the stage where the only appropriate sentence is prison. Orders are there to deter and prevent further offending."

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