Belfast Telegraph seeks Justice for Attracta

Attracta Harron was murdered by Trevor Hamilton, having been abducted on December 11th 2003, on her way home from Mass.

Hamilton made legal history in Northern Ireland as the first person to have his previous convictions revealed to the Court, as he was a convicted sex offender. He had been sent to a young offenders centre for seven years after pleading guilty to raping, assaulting and threatening to kill a 29-year-old woman in February 2000 when he was 17. He had been released less than four months when he abducted and killed Mrs Harron. He is now expected to spend the rest of his life in prison.

In Northern Ireland, there is an automatic 50% remission on all sentences, except life sentences. In other words, serious sex offenders are automatically released after half of their time is served, as there is no sentence review or parole board. The Belfast Telegraph has been leading a campaign to end this anomaly in prison releases, and is calling for a sentence review body to consider the most serious sex offenders before their release, and perhaps ensure that they serve all of the sentence that has been handed down. I would encourage all readers to take a moment and participate in the campaign:

{encode=”dmcaleese@belfasttelegraph.co.uk” title=”You can send a simple e-mail by clicking this link, and indicate your support for the Justice for Attracta campaign.”}

  • McGrath

    There needs to be a comprehensive sex offenders register for Northern Ireland so the public can keep themselves informed of who is living in their neighbourhoods.

    (That’s probably to naive).

  • McGrath

    there IS a sex offenders register in NI, as elsewhere in the UK.

    None of the UK registers are open to the public.

  • McGrath

    Sorry, comprehensive “public” register.

  • McGrath

    you want a British version of Megans’ Law.

  • McGrath

    I feel Megans law lacks balance. A conviction for Public Urination in the US can get your name on the public sex offenders list, further, the sex offenders list doesn’t describe the conviction with any degree of detail. The consequence is someone who went pee in the bushes can get witch hunted by their community.

    http://www.meganslaw.ca.gov/registration/offenses.htm

  • Jo

    Call me heartless, but if few guys who pulled it out in a bush to have a pee get a bit of hassle, I think its a price worth paying…

  • DK

    The trouble with a public register is you get the kind of disturbances like what happened in Portsmouth when a newspaper printed people’s names who were on the register. Some had served their time and rehabilitated. Some had sex as a 16 year old with a 15 year old. Some were really nasty pieces of work. It made no difference: All were attacked, as were innocent people who shared a name with someone on the list and, in an irony, a paediatrician whose job title someone mis-read as paedopihile.

    Like most crimes, these crimes range on a scale from the severest lunatics to minor indiscretions and even miscarriages of justice. Where do you draw the line in deciding who gets published for a public lynching? This campaign sounds like a knee-jerk to me, with the added bonus of extra sales.

  • Rory

    I am a bit lost here, Miss Fitz. If, as you say, Hamilton “is expected to spend the rest of his life in prison” then what further penalty are you calling for that would deliver “justice for Attracta” ?

    The debate over the question of sentencing for similar offences is raging in England at the moment and is indeed the main topic on todays news programmes, highlighted by a recent heinous case where a convicted child sex abuser on parole, together with his girlfriend committed the grossest acts of sexual brutality on an infant child whom they were babysitting. His current sentence for this offence will likely see him released within 4-6 years it seems and now John Reid (who is Home Secretary, at least for this week) is at loggerheads with the Attorney General on sentence review and who is to blame and the whole question of sentencing across the board is thrown into the arena along with availibility of prisons and everyone is in a complete tizzy.

    While Joe Public is so engaged the government can get on with slipping through some other unpopular move and then after quietly allow the debate on sentencing to wither away – until the next time.

    The politicians blame the courts and the judges counter by pointing out that they must follow the guidelines legislated by parliament and so it goes round and round.

    The main problem, it seems to me, is that the courts are fettered by poorly drafted legislation that has been ill thought out and rushed through in fits of populist madness in order to curry electoral favour. That the legislation is hellbound to create future furore is of no consequence as next time the public are raised to fury the politicians can once again court popular appeal by putting out soundbites that would not discredit a tabloid newspaper.

    We are currently suffering from young yobs urinating against the side of the house and into the flower plants on the steps on a nightly basis and even now in broad daylight and much as I feel like castrating the little bastards before hanging them from a short apple tree, I think it is best that apprehension and punishment is not left up to me and much as I might chuckle with glee to see their names posted as registered sex offenders it really wouldn’t be right to have them lumped in the same category as a child rapist, now would it?

  • joeCanuck

    Rory

    “I am a bit lost here, Miss Fitz. If, as you say, Hamilton “is expected to spend the rest of his life in prison” then what further penalty are you calling for that would deliver “justice for Attracta” ?”

    You have missed the whole point of The BT campaign. Of course nothing will help Attracta. However, if the campaign does succeed, Attracta’s family can take some comfort that her brutal death has led to something positive. That is, many other women will have the possibility of meeting such a monster greatly reduced.

  • Miss Fitz

    Rory
    The point of the campaign is simply that Hamilton was a convicted sex offender, who was out of prison on this automatic 50% reduction in sentence.

    Unlike England, Wales, etc, there is no sentence review board here and ALL sentences are automatically reduced by half. So, if you get 6 years, you are released without review after 3. (The exception are life sentences, where there is a life sentence review board)

    I am sad some of you think its a gimmick, it isnt, it’s a neccesary piece of public agitation for a fairer maintenance of sentencing.

    Kit Chivers made the point very well, that even if someone has been receommended for treatment or counselling in prison, this is stopped without review when they reach half their sentence served.

    This is a very genuine campaign that has some very serious support, and requries the public to exert that extra pressure to make it happen

    As Joe Canuck has said, nothing will bring Attracta home again, but the family are supporting this campaign to ensure that offenders serve the time that they are given.

    May not sound like a lot, but it might help a little

  • Occasional Commentator

    It doesn’t matter whether the remission is 50%, 33% or 90%. The actual sentence they serve is a function of the sentence handed down and the remission. The problem is that the actual sentence, after all the jiggery pokery, is too low.

    I’m quite happy to have 50% remission for all offences, dependent on good behaviour and education targets. We need incentives for prisoners to behave themselves and improve themselves – this is just as important for sex offenders as anyone else.

    The important thing is to start handing down much higher sentences in the first place.

  • Occasional Commentator

    .. adding to my previous comment.

    When sentencing a convict, judges should explicitly give a “maximum” and “minimum” sentence, so that nobody is in any doubt.

  • Miss Fitz

    OC
    I agree with most of what you are saying there, but I wonder if you are taking one point for granted.

    You crucially talk about ‘good behaviour’ when looking at remission. The point and issue here is that there is AUTOMATIC remission when half the sentence is served. Doesnt matter how grave the crime, or how unrehabilitated the offender.

    This is why the campaign is seeking to have a sentence review for all serious sex offenders. Yes, give longer sentences, but the key point is that the sentence MUST be served, or only reviewed if a rehabiliation is deemed to have occurred.

    At present, no such safeguards exist, and this is why I have asked for people to support the campaign