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Second NI paedophile given lifetime anonymity over self-harm threat

A judge at Newry Crown Court initially ruled in favour of press by lifting a Reporting Restriction Order on a convicted paedophile but swiftly reimposed it when he threatened to end his own life


A second convicted paedophile in Northern Ireland has been afforded lifetime anonymity after threatening to end his own life if his identity was published.

The accused who was today jailed for 16 months at Antrim Crown Court, remained under an interim reporting ban from his first appearance where it was contended he would take his own life if his identity in relation to offending became known.

Until recently there were just seven life-time anonymity orders throughout the entire United Kingdom all of which were imposed due to identified third party risk to life.

They include Robert Thompson and Jon Venables who murdered toddler Jamie Bulger and on release from prison were given new identities which cannot be reported.

Another killer, Mary Bell who tortured and murdered two boys in 1968 when she aged 10, was granted lifetime anonymity when given a new identity on release.

Maxine Carr, jailed for lying to protect her partner Ian Huntley who murdered Soham schoolgirls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, was also given a new identity which cannot be reported.

The so-called ‘Snapchat killers’ involved two schoolgirls aged 13 and 14 who were convicted of murdering a vulnerable woman in her home in 2016. While they remained under 18 their identities were protected by statutory restrictions applicable for any youth offender, however when both reached adulthood a court banned their identities from publication for life.

Belfast man Kenneth Callaghan, described as one of the UK’s most notorious sexual criminals was convicted of murdering, then raping his victim as she lay dead or dying in 1987. He was until recently the only person in Northern Ireland to be granted lifetime anonymity on his new identity.

That changed in February 2022 when a judge at Newry Crown Court initially ruled in favour of press by lifting a Reporting Restriction Order on a convicted paedophile, but swiftly reimposed it when he threatened to kill himself.

At a substantive hearing a few days later the judge made the reporting ban permanent.

In the latest case, the defendant who is aged in his thirties admitted attempting to communicate sexually with two female children on dates between November 2021 and January 2022.

He was in fact engaging online with undercover officers in Yorkshire and Humber Police acting as decoys, both presenting as 12-year-olds.

Conversations, “were sexual in nature, including sending naked pictures of his private area and encouraging receipt of same”.

The evidence gathered was passed to PSNI and when arrested the defendant insisted he knew the profiles were decoys and he was “trying to catch them out in a lie”.

When asked why he didn’t report this to police he contended “it was the thrill of catching them out”.

This was rejected by the judge, who described the response as “disquieting”.

Jailing the defendant for 16 months, to be served six months in custody and the remainder on licence the judge held this be “proportionate and commensurate with the gravity of offending …while it is true these were decoys, his intention was to be engaged with 12-year-old girls. Offending took place over the course of some 50 days and entailed him sending a naked picture of himself and inviting (the decoys) to send naked pictures of themselves to him”.

Press submissions against the reporting restriction set out how the defendant initially contended he wasn’t concerned for himself but the impact on his family, which does not quantify and identity ban, amid a number of other points including the custodial sentence affording mitigating factors to prevent self-harm such as immediate placement on a Supporting Prisoners At Risk (SPAR) scheme.

However the judge ruled the order would remain permanent, making the defendant the second convicted paedophile across the entire UK to be granted lifetime anonymity having threatened to self-harm.

The Lady Chief Justice has been approached for comment.

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