A TOTAL of nine dangerous sex offenders living in the Tyrone and Fermanagh area have breached the conditions of their bail in the last five years.
The figures, released at the Northern Ireland Assembly, have prompted a local MLA to urge the assembly to consider using GPS satellite tracking to tackle the area’s most dangerous sexual offenders.
A total of 63 Sexual Offence Prevention Orders (SOPOs) have been slapped on offenders living in Tyrone and Fermanagh, according to the figures, which were obtained by DUP representative Maurice Morrow.
SOPOs are made against offenders convicted of a Schedule 3 or 5 sexual offence, and were created to replace restraining orders and sex offender orders available through the Sex Offenders Act 1997.
Worryingly, in the Tyrone and Fermanagh area, 9 sex offenders have been convicted of breaching a SOPO since 2007.
One notorious case of a local sex offender breaching a SOPO was that of Thomas Christopher Ward, who was given an indeterminate jail sentence for attacking a woman while she was out jogging last year.
It was Ward’s second conviction for a sex attack.
In 2007 he was jailed for four years for indecent assault and false imprisonment.
Mr Morrow has urged the Justice Department to consider a GPS tagging system to monitor “high risk offenders” who are released into the community.
“I find these figures deeply disturbing, not just because of the high level presence in my constituency of Fermanagh & South Tyrone but the possibility of clustering of sex-offenders which has been shown to create serious problems”, he said.
“The issue here is the protection of the public, but that appears to fall a sorry second place to the rights of the perpetrator.
“I am on the record as stating Sexual Offences Prevention Orders are not efficient in all cases and the number of breaches appearing before the courts proves offenders are simply not taking them seriously.
“SOPOs put the onus on the offender to comply with restrictions and whilst I accept it is not humanly possible to monitor a person 24 hours a day, the current system is ineffectual.
“I have already called for the compulsary tagging of sex-offenders and would urge the Justice Minister to follow the example of the Scottish Assembly to consider GPS tracking.
“In addition sentences for breaching SOPOs need to be considerably tougher to drive home the message to the offender they have broken the law. The first breach should be the last and immediate custody is the only way to ensure such offenders are not out repeating their behaviour.
“Many sex-offenders would be prepared to risk getting caught in breach of a SOPO given the pathetic consequences. It appears there is nothing in place to deter and this questions the credibility of the sentencing regime.
“The softly, softly approach is not working and it’s time it was reversed and robust legislation put in place for the protection of the public. Some sex-offenders treat SOPOs with such contempt they are nothing more than a paper exercise.”