Pressure grows on Government to scrap the policy of 50% remission

Pressure grows on Government to scrap the policy of 50% remission
5 August 2006
Belfast Telegraph
Deborah McAleese

Pressure was once again mounting on the government last night to scrap Northern Ireland's controversial remission policy that allowed predatory sex offender Trevor Hamilton to walk free from jail early to kill.

A Serious Case Review into the monitoring and management of one of the province's most dangerous men raised concerns about the policy that permitted Hamilton to walk free after serving just half of a seven year sentence for rape - despite serious concerns about his likelihood to reoffend - and the fact that he was not judged suitable for home leave.

The independent review, carried out by the PSNI, Prison Service and Probation Board, recommended that all agencies involved in the management of sex offenders should raise concern with the government about the much criticised early release policy.

"There are questions to be considered about the basis and timing of Hamilton's release. His was a determinate sentence, leaving the Northern Ireland Prison Service no option or discretion over time of release of an offender who continued to refuse to acknowledge his offending and to do anything to address his behaviour during custody,"

the report states. It adds:

"Yet at that point, and for some time before it, all professionals involved in this case remained concerned that he represented a material risk to society, as reflected in the Hydebank Head of Custody's refusals to a number of applications for home leave."

The Belfast Telegraph is campaigning for 50% remission to be scrapped and already has over 20,000 signatures supporting our Justice For Attracta campaign.

There was major public concern and speculation following the murder of Mrs Harron in December 2003 that sex offenders were not being properly managed or monitored within local communities.

However, the report, which was released yesterday after Mr Justice McLaughlin told Hamilton he will never be free again, does not identify any major failings within the agencies.

Last night the umbrella group responsible for the management of sex offenders here - Northern Ireland Sex Offenders Strategic Management Committee (NISOMC) - said that the blame for Mrs Harron's murder must stop with Hamilton.

"You have an individual who is a sexual predator who had the propensity to kill, who went and committed another horrendous crime in the murder of an innocent lady. That is where the blame and the buck has to stop - with Trevor Hamilton,"

said NISOMC policy co-ordinator William McAuley. He added:

"The agencies did all they possibly could in relation to the management of his risk in context of the legislation available at that time and that obviously was not enough. As a result he was able to kill."

"Trevor Hamilton may have gone on to kill even beyond his full served time. All I can say is that if he had been in prison he would not have been able to commit this murder."

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