Judge “sympathises” with sex-offender accused of 12 SOPO breaches
A JUDGE has said she “sympathises” with a convicted sex-offender who appeared in court on 12 counts of breaching his Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO).
Stuart Townsend (21) of Parkmore Road, Magherafelt has numerous breaches on record, mostly for possessing a mobile phone which he is forbidden from doing as part of the SOPO.
A police constable told Magherafelt Magistrates Court she could connect the accused to the new charges.
Opposing bail the officer said Townsend was arrested on 26 February in relation to charges of having a mobile phone on 5 December last. Describing him as a persistent offender, the officer said Townsend had only been released by Hydebank Young Offenders centre for similar offences in October 2012 but was caught weeks later with a mobile phone.
Townsend served a custodial sentence in 2010 for sending sexually explicit messages to a teenage boy, and was bound by the SOPO on release.
He received a suspended sentence in January 2012 for breaking the order in November 2011, but whilst pre-sentence reports were being prepared in this case was he was caught again with a mobile phone at Northern Regional College where he was a hospitality student. He was subsequently excluded from the college, after additional complaints were received by police from staff and students and for which he was charged with further offences. At this time Police said one student said he had received over 400 text messages from the defendant.
All these matters were dealt with by eight months custody, handed down at Londonderry Magistrates Court, and police now contend Townsend yet again flouted the mobile phone ban just a matter of weeks after his release last October.
At the most recent hearing a defence barrister told Magherafelt Magistrates Court there was no question of any sexual offence being committed through the new alleged breaches, and went on question the legality of the SOPO imposed on his client. He added he is intending to apply to have the order amended or revoked.
District Judge Bernie Kelly said, “I sympathise with the defendant. I am concerned a record of this nature will affect his employment opportunities. I think it’s quite frankly ridiculous Mr Townsend’s entire life has been ruined for something he did as a teenager.”
Townsend, who wept throughout the hearing, was released on £250 bail, and warned him the SOPO currently stands, which means he cannot possess or own a mobile phone or Sim card.
The case is due back in court on 26 March.
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