The Justice Minister has defended police officers from a backlash after they failed to hunt down a convicted sex offender with a horrific history of rape and molestation who went missing for a year.
The show of support came after Lord Maurice Morrow called for an investigation into how James White was allowed to ‘disappear off the police radar’ before being arrested for allegedly approaching a 14-year-old boy in Ballygawley.
White, originally from Crossmaglen, but with an address in Stewartstown, was charged in August with contravening the SOPO order he had been given in 1998 after being convicted of sexually assaulting underage boys.
The 45-year-old was charged with living at two addresses without the permission of the designated risk manager between January 3 and July 25 this year, and failing to notify police of his address.
Responding to the criticism of the police handling of the case, Minister Claire Sugden said that the police officers responsible for White’s risk management made ‘strenuous and sustained efforts’ to locate him during his absence from his approved address.
“They utilised all available means and technologies at their disposal to locate him as well as alerting relevant authorities with whom he may come into contact both in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland”, she said.
“That response does not signify to me that there was a significant failure by his risk managers to do all that could be expected of them in such circumstances and indeed those efforts have now culminated in his arrest and his actions being properly brought before the Courts.”
Lord Morrow has accused the minister of minimising the risks presented by sex offenders to children in the community. “If ever there was an instance of significant failure in risk management it is this case. 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.”