Belfast Telegraph

Paul Redpath: Why was this fiend not tagged?

High-risk sex offender Paul Redpath is under arrest in the Republic of Ireland.

He is a man branded by police as a danger to women and children and his detention will bring a sigh of relief to many people’s lips. Gardai detained the man, who is from Stranraer in Scotland, after he went missing from a |hostel in Northern Ireland. There have been calls for this case to be investigated and this newspaper has no hesitation in throwing its weight behind those demands.

Redpath is a dangerous man yet he was released back into the community despite twice breaking the terms of his probation.

In 2007 he went on the run from a probation hospital just hours after being released from jail. He was then less than half way through a three-year sentence for a sex attack on two young sisters aged 13 and 15.

At that time he turned up in the Republic and was put on licence in December 2007. But he again breached the terms of that licence by drinking.

It was for that breach that he appeared in court before Her Honour Judge McReynolds.

After hearing that a south Belfast probation-run hostel was willing to accept him, she told him that he was “in the last chance saloon”. He was ordered to stay in the hostel and was not allowed to leave for any more than an hour at a time.

There are a number of questions that follow from the judge’s decision. What were the alternative options available to her?

Could Redpath have been returned to jail for his previous breaches of the terms of his probation?

Could he have been electronically tagged, given his history of breaching probation and of absconding? Were there legal reasons for not tagging him?

Is the technology available for tagging and constantly monitoring offenders? Tagging and tracking was one of the options promised in a review of the serious sexual offences legislation conducted in the wake of the death of Attracta Harron, the Strabane woman killed by convicted rapist Trevor Hamilton.

Quite rightly, the public wants to know why a man known as a danger to women and children and with a history of absconding from hostel accommodation

was put back in that very environment. Sexual offenders often pose a serious and ongoing threat to society and must be treated accordingly. There may well be legal reasons why he was given his supposed last chance, but these should be made public.

It is not sufficient for authorities to say that the vast majority of offenders placed on probation adhere to the conditions imposed on them. That may well be true, but on the facts known to the public Redpath’s past form did not place him in that category. There is also the question of whether the PSNI or Probation Service has the resources to manage and monitor the large number of sex offenders who have been committed to hostel accommodation.

Security Minister Paul Goggins has been asked to investigate this case and review the monitoring of offenders. He must do so immediately and thoroughly, taking on board the critics of the current arrangements as well as the views of those who administer the system. Otherwise, public confidence in the justice system will be severely dented.

Belfast Telegraph

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