Page last updated at 14:50 GMT, Tuesday, 26 May 2009 15:50 UK

Sex offender makes legal aid plea

John Bermingham
Bermingham was jailed for nine years in 2001

A convicted sex offender should be given public money to help fund an appeal against court restrictions placed on him, judges have said.

John Bermingham was jailed for nine years in 2001 for attempting to rape an 11-year-old girl and attacking a teenage nursing assistant.

Severe restrictions were placed on him by a civil court order after his release.

Bermingham, 42, claims the order breached his human rights.

Since his release, he has been charged with allegedly breaching the interim Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO) by using buses in Falkirk and nearby Carronshore, at prohibited times.

A lot of the conditions on this order effectively stop him living
John Carroll
Solicitor advocate

The Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh heard that Bermingham had not been granted legal aid to fight the SOPO - a decision which one judge, Lord Eassie, described as "extraordinary".

Lord Kingarth said a letter would be written to the Scottish Legal Aid Board conveying the judges' view that the matters Bermingham sought to raise in challenging the order and its terms were of "general importance" in terms of the legislation.

The judge said "some fundamental issues are raised, perhaps for the first time, in relation to this legislation".

The appeal judges agreed to continue his case to enable steps to be taken for a potential challenge to be launched through the civil courts against the order made on Bermingham.

Bermingham claims that the terms of the order constitute a breach of his rights under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

He maintains that it interferes with his right to family life, freedom of expression and a fair trial.

Under the SOPO a number of restrictions were placed on Bermingham including a bus ban at certain times of the day.

Dance class

He was also barred from entering any house where a female was present unless authorised by the Chief Constable, and was prohibited from contacting or being in the company of females who were not relatives "with the exception of inadvertent or unavoidable contact or communication which takes place in a public place".

Bermingham was also banned from leaving his address between 1900 BST and 0700 BST unless for "urgent preservation of his life and limb".

Defence solicitor advocate John Carroll said: "A lot of the conditions on this order effectively stop him living.

"It would seem very likely he is likely to find himself back in custody if he goes into a shop and is served by a female," he said.

He said Bermingham was subjected to surveillance from the moment he left prison and the criminal charges over allegedly breaching the bus ban provisions were within days of the order being made.

Bermingham is presently back in custody, but an application to have him released on bail could be made.

He was originally jailed for an attack on an 11-year-old girl as she walked home from a dance class in the Newington area of Edinburgh and an assault on an 18-year-old at the city's Cameron Toll, both on the same day.



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