Lord Morrow accuses Justice Minister of minimising sex offender risks after paedophile went missing

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Lord Morrow has accused the Minister for Justice of minimising the risks presented by sex offenders to children in the community.

He was speaking after a convicted offender’s whereabouts were unknown to PSNI risk managers until he was located in Stewartstown, County Tyrone, having allegedly reoffended.

He said, “I asked the Minister to instigate a Serious Case Review into the management of convicted sex offender James White who was recently arrested in Stewartstown after almost a year of being completely off the police radar, despite notification requirements.

“Regrettably this man was only located after allegedly committing further relevant offences and is presently remanded in custody.

“The response from the Minister was outright refusal and what I can only describe as minimisation of the charges for which Mr White is now remanded in custody, as well the risks posed. He is accused of four breaches of a Sexual Offences Prevention Order by leaving Northern Ireland without consent, having unlawful contact with a male child, owning a number of devices with internet access and residing at two address unknown to police. He is also accused of permitting a youth to consume alcohol.

“Yet according to the Minister the case does not meet the criteria for a Serious Case Review in that the current charges against Mr White do not meet the serious violent offence threshold and there are no grounds to suggest that there has been a significant failure in his risk management by statutory agencies whilst on licence.

“If ever there was an instance of significant failure in risk management it is this case. Mr White was supposed to be residing in Newry where he was being managed in the community by a PSNI Designated Risk Manager. PSNI management is usually reserved for the most high risk offenders.

“But for almost a year Mr White was able to disappear into the ether and remain outside controls which may just have prevented the current charges.

“I am appalled that the Minister for Justice could designate any violation charge against a child or young people as not serious, particularly given this man’s previous record.

“Likewise, his deliberate evading of monitor permitting him to be at large unrestricted for almost a year, clearly indicates something went egregiously wrong, yet the Minister states there are no grounds to suggest significant failure.

“I have challenged the Minister in a follow-up question demanding she explain her response. She may also be interested to know this case is proceeding on indictment to crown court given the seriousness of the charges. That is diametrically opposed to the Minister’s perception of this matter.

“In addition I have written to the Chief Constable, to ascertain what went wrong, why White was able to remain at large for so long and what facility exists within PSNI for an enquiry in to monitoring failings.”