Hundreds of convicted child sex offenders were allowed to work with children in Northern Ireland after courts failed to disqualify them, new figures have shown.
According to reports, a review carried out by the Court Service revealed that in 480 cases well over half of offenders (57%) were not banned from working with children.
Paul Givan, chair of the Justice Committee, is to ask Northern Ireland justice minister David Ford why the child sex offenders did not receive a disqualification order.
The cases are now being reviewed to establish whether an order should have been made.
Givan told the BBC that the failure to ban the offenders was despite there being a presumption that a disqualification order would be given and that, “where there wasn’t one provided, that a reason would then be provided by the judge and that hasn’t happened in over 250 cases”.
Child protection expert Mark Williams-Thomas said the problem is widespread. “I deal with many offenders who have convictions against children but are not barred [from working with them],” he said.
He said that the only way to prevent child sex offenders from working with children “would be if a judge makes a disqualification order or if one is stipulated in a Sex Offenders Prevention Order (Sopo) obtained by the police”.
Such orders would show up in a Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check, making Sopos and CRB checks “vital”, he added.
Givan said the issue must be dealt with urgently and confirmed it would be addressed at a Justice Committee meeting on Thursday.
The review was carried out by the Court Service in light of a high profile child abuse case in Northern Ireland. Last year brothers James and Owen Roe McDermott were found mentally unfit to stand trial for sexually abusing children over a 30-year period.
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