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Another alleged child sex offender granted anonymity over self-harm threat

Courts justice

An interim reporting restriction has been granted for a man accused of child sex offence who it is claimed could self-harm if his identity is known.

The accused who is aged in his forties, is charged with twice attempting to arrange or facilitate an illegal act, namely rape of a child.

It is further alleged he made and was in possession of an indecent image of a child.

Offending is alleged to have occurred on various dates between November 21 and 24, 2022.

On first appearing in court last month the accused spoke only to confirm his identity and that he understood the charges.

While no details surrounding the circumstances of the alleged offending were disclosed during the short hearing a police officer aware of the facts said the charges could be connected.

On that occasion a defence solicitor advised an application was sought for an interim reporting restriction on the basis of risk to life from self-harm.

The judge enquired from the police officer if he was aware of any risk to the defendant’s life due to self-harm, who on checking the custody record replied: “There’s no mention of a risk to life due to mental health.”

The defence informed the court that efforts were underway to source a consultant psychiatrist to carry out an assessment to this effect around the defendant’s mental health issues.

Granting the reporting ban on an interim basis only the advised any report should be supplied to the court as soon as possible.

On return today, the defence referred to a report obtained from a consultant psychiatrist for the purposes of the application for anonymity, although it remains unclear if the accused is under the care of a treating clinician.

The report opined publication of the accused names could provoke an attempt at self-harm.

The reporting ban was extended to allow Press to respond and this will be revisited in April.

Press have previously raised concerns over the obtaining of such reports and what action is taken by this who compile them around mitigating risks.

Such findings will have no impact on the charges, or the case progressing through court, however the role of Press in upholding open justice, which is also incumbent on the courts, continues to be stifled.

Despite numerous representations on this, reporting bans continue to be sought and granted for alleged sex-offenders with Northern Ireland becoming the first in the United Kingdom jurisdiction to impose Lifetime Anonymity Orders for two paedophiles in separate cases who both threatened to self-harm if named.

There are only nine Lifetime Anonymity Orders across the entire United Kingdom, which are largely reserved for those facing third-party threat due to revulsion caused by their offending and usually on being released from prison under a new identity.

Seven existing orders include Maxine Carr, partner of Soham murderer Ian Huntley, as well as Robert Thompson and Jon Venables, who murdered toddler James Bulger.

The latest two make up the only Northern Ireland-imposed Lifetime Anonymity Orders bringing the overall total to nine.

The unrelated cases were both for convicted sex-offenders, each threatening to self-harm.

One was placed on probation and the other was jailed.

The judge in the case of the imprisoned offender refused to accept that such risk could be managed in the jail setting despite the introduction of enhanced measures within the custodial setting, which would be stronger than in the general community.

The PSNI later confirmed these orders would require to be taken into consideration in the event of persons applying for information under the Child Protection Disclosure Scheme, meaning such sex-offenders may fall outside the scope compared to others, despite any potential risks.

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