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Friday, July 23, 1999 Published at 16:15 GMT 17:15 UK


Murder sparks call for legal changes

Wesley Neailey was raped and murdered

Police are calling for changes in the law on sex offenders in the light of the murder of an 11-year-old schoolboy.

Dominic McKilligan, who had a previous conviction for gross indecent assault against children and had been known to social services since the age of 11, was sentenced to life on Friday for the murder and rape of Wesley Neailey last summer.

Northumbria police say the case demonstrates the need for changes in the law regarding sex offenders, but child cruelty campaigners say it shows the need for more investment in treatment for potential sex offenders.

McKilligan escaped being put on the Sex Offenders Register by one day because his criminal supervision order ran out a day before it came into force on 1 September 1997.

McKilligan, from Bournemouth, had served a three-year criminal supervision order for gross indecent assault at Aycliffe Young People's Centre, run by Durham County Council.

On his release, he moved to Newcastle where he was to start a music course.

Newcastle City Council and Northumbria police say they were not informed that he was moving to the area.

But Bournemouth Borough Council and Aycliffe say they thought they had been told.

They believed he should have been on the Sex Offenders Register and say McKilligan led them to believe he had informed police.

But spokesman for Newcastle City Council said it did not learn that he was in Newcastle until November 24, more than two months later, and that, by this time, he was over 18 and considered an adult.

The council says McKilligan had a package of support from Bournemouth and its only other responsibility was to run checks that he had no access to children, which it did.

'Normal practice'

Ken Black of the Aycliffe centre says the case demonstrates the need for better face-to-face communication between all the agencies involved.

Durham and Bournemouth are reviewing their procedures in the light of the case.

Northumbria police believe it raises questions about loopholes in the law regarding sex offenders.

They want it to be mandatory for social services to tell police and other agencies when a known sex offender moves to their area.

They also say that the case shows loopholes in the Sex Offenders Act, since it allows people accused of murder and other serious crimes to escape being put on the Sex Offenders Register.

This is because judges may throw out a lesser sexual offence charge, thinking that the more serious one will encompass it.

Detective Superintendent Trevor Fordy, who led the investigation into Wesley's murder, said: "It is not up to me to direct any blame at any other agency.

"I think we have all got to look at what is currently in place at the moment and see how we can make it better in the future.

"Perhaps it is the system that is not right and maybe we need to change it. I would never like anything like this to happen again."

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) says it believes the case is a strong argument for a national network of early treatment centres for child sex offenders and for government guidelines on how agencies should work together to manage young sex offenders.

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