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PSNI reverse decision refusing to provide figures on dual-identity sex offenders

Court case collapses after convicted Armagh sex-offender, claiming he was threatened, refused to confirm his change in name

Following a challenge to a refusal to release figures on sex-offenders using dual identities, the PSNI has reversed the decision, having previously cited excessive costs.

Under Freedom of Information, the PSNI was asked to provide the current number of registered sex-offenders and of these how many have different names alongside those they were convicted under.

While the PSNI confirmed it held information the request was turned down on the basis the “costs would exceed the appropriate limit”.

This was challenged by the Local Democracy Reporting Service and following a review the PSNI agreed to release the details.

These reveal as of last month there are 1,946 registered sex-offenders and of these, 243 currently have or use other names/aliases.

A further 126 currently have one or most listed ‘nicknames’.

Before this response, several sex-offenders using different names were identified as a result of current court proceedings, including Richard McCrea, who now uses the name David Hatch, which proved contentious when he claimed to be the victim of a threat.

Assessed at the highest level of sexual offending, McCrea of Dobbins Grove, Armagh was jailed for posing as a 17-year-old on social media in an attempt to contact a female child.

Placed under a SOPO on release, McCrea breached this by purchasing an internet-enabled Smartphone despite being expressly told not to.

Last year he surfaced in Armagh Magistrates’ Court for a fraud offence as Hatch and on enquiry the PSNI confirmed: “This is the same person and police are well aware of the individual changing his name.”

Coinciding with his fraud case, McCrea was the alleged victim of a threat from a male he met in prison, and had invited to stay in his Armagh home on release.

A contest initially got underway in October where defence counsel repeatedly asked if he had changed his name to Hatch.

He resolutely refused to answer, deeming this “not appropriate”.

The hearing was paused briefly during which McCrea was asked to leave the court and warned against speaking to anyone as he remained under oath.

The defence contended his previous record is disclosable for the purposes of credibility, but no relevant offending was showing under the name Hatch.

Refusal to confirm he was McCrea left the defence without critical information.

Meanwhile, despite being warned, McCrea made a phone call and on returning to court – and pressed on this phone call – he claimed to have contacted “Sarah at Mahon Road”.

District Judge Anne Marshall decided to adjourn the case to iron out details over McCrea’s identity.

On return in November, the case picked up where it left off with defence counsel again challenging McCrea’s identity, who insisted “I decline to answer”.

Quizzed on the phone call during the previous hearing, McCrea now claimed it was to his solicitor, but refused to provide a name as “I don’t think that’s appropriate”.

Pressed further he said: “I rang Sarah. She’s a friend I know”.

He refused to state why he phoned her, deeming this “not appropriate, so I’m not answering”.

It had since transpired ‘Sarah’ is his PSNI Designated Risk Manager, who monitors his behaviour as a convicted sex-offender.

While he accepted being imprisoned, he dismissed questions on whether this was sex offending, stating: “I don’t have to answer that. I don’t think that’s relevant.”

Asked directly if he had a record for sex-offending he replied: “No.”

At this, Judge Marshall halted proceedings as McCrea, “declines to answer questions on his identity. He lied about the phone call to ‘Sarah’ and I am well-aware who she is. He has previous convictions for SOPO breaches and child sexual offences. There are significant issues around his credibility and he is not capable of belief”.

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