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Convicted paedophile wants permanent anonymity despite case concluding

Armagh Magistrates Court

Although a judge has ruled in favour of Press to remove a reporting restriction on a convicted paedophile, defence lawyers have requested a stay to allow further assessment to support their contention for what would be unprecedented permanent anonymity after a case has concluded.

The male, who is aged in his thirties, admitting 22 offences involving possessing, distributing and making indecent child images.

Offending occurred in April 2017, and included a number of images in the highest category of seriousness.

Ahead of sentencing defence counsel insisted the reporting restriction order imposed at the outset of proceedings on the basis the defendant threatened to self-harm if named publicly, should be made permanent.

Press argued sentencing ended the proceedings therefore reporting restrictions automatically ceased.

The defence detailed a series of self-harm incidents as the case proceeded through court, but Press pointed out that it appeared the reporting ban had not prevented these actions, rendering it ineffective as a safeguard.

Press also noted the defendant had indicated he would self-harm if the case went to court, but this had no impact upon the decision to prosecute.

Judge Gordon Kerr QC noted an assessment that found the defendant exhibited sexual preoccupation and is: “Beginning to develop some awareness of the harm caused to children used in the creation of such images …But there is limited victim awareness.”

A psychiatric report described him as: “An impulsive young man who struggles to cope with ongoing stressors. However this should be viewed as part of his difficulties in managing stress, rather than any underlying mental illness.”

Judge Kerr remarked: “There is no evidence the defendant has or is facing any mental health conditions which would lead to him self-harm, other than the stress of proceedings.”

Noting a medium likelihood of reoffending, Judge Kerr imposed a three year Probation Order and 60 hours Community Service warning the defendant: “This is a direct alternative to prison. This type of order is very strictly enforced. If you do not follow it, I assure you, having been given an opportunity and you do not take it, there will be no reason not to send you immediately to prison.”

The defendant will remain on the sex-offender register for five years and made subject to a Sexual Offences Prevention Order for the same duration

Turning to the reporting restriction Judge Kerr stated: “Justice should be administered and communicated in public. Fair, accurate contemporaneous media reporting of proceedings should not be prevented by any action of the court unless strictly necessary. It is not appropriate to invoke a power to withhold matters for the benefit of the defendant’s feelings or comfort or to prevent reputational damage.”

He continued: “I have considered this very carefully. It is an important matter. The defendant’s self-harm incidents were as a result of these proceedings, which are now ended. Sentence is passed and he has support for the next three years. In those circumstances I am not satisfied there is any need to continue the reporting restriction, which now ceases.”

But the defence requested a stay to allow for legal consultation.

This was agreed and on return the court was informed in the aftermath of sentencing the defendant made certain remarks which caused “sufficient concern to advise him seek medical assistance.”

Judge Kerr granted an adjournment advising the defence to ensure any evidence they seek to rely upon should be shared with Press in advance.

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