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Friday, 13 December, 2002, 20:25 GMT
Sex offenders 'must face longer terms'
Offenders in England can be jailed for 10 years
Offenders in England can be jailed for 10 years
The government must change the law to allow tougher sentences for child sex offenders, Northern Ireland's most senior judge has urged.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Robert Carswell said terms five times longer than at present should be permitted.

While offenders in England can be jailed for up to 10 years for gross indecency with a child, the maximum sentence in Northern Ireland is just two years.

Sir Robert made his comments during a judgement in the Appeal Court in Belfast on Friday.

We cannot leave this appeal without repeating a call to the legislature to amend the maximum term of imprisonment

Lord Chief Justice

He said: "The law is crying out for an amendment, which is long overdue, and we would urge the government to address it as a matter of urgency."

He was delivering reserved judgement in an appeal by a 33-year-old man who was given three consecutive terms of 21 months after admitting three counts of gross indecency on his partner's nine-year-old daughter.

At his Belfast Crown Court trial in June, Judge Patrick Markey said a maximum of two years on each count was "totally inadequate and a public scandal".

Reduced term

On Friday, the trial judge's comments were endorsed by the Appeal Court.

"We cannot leave this appeal without repeating a call to the legislature to amend the maximum term of imprisonment," said the Lord Chief Justice.
Sir Robert Carswell:
Sir Robert Carswell: "Terms should be five times longer"

However, the court ruled that as a matter of consistent principle, insufficient discount had been given for the man's guilty pleas.

His total sentence was therefore reduced from five years and three months to four and a half years.

"We are acutely conscious that this reduces the appellant's term of imprisonment even further below that which he thoroughly deserves, but we feel that we must nevertheless uphold the principle," said Sir Robert.

Earlier this year, new multi-agency procedures were launch as part of the Northern Ireland Sex Offender Strategic Management Committee.

The multi-agency initiative is chaired by the Police Service of Northern Ireland and includes the Probation Board and health trusts.

Its aim is to manage and assess risk posed by sex offenders released back into the community.

Sex abuse cases account for 4% of reported crime in Northern Ireland.

See also:

02 May 02 | N Ireland
20 Nov 00 | N Ireland
30 Apr 02 | N Ireland
08 Aug 00 | N Ireland
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