20,000 Reasons to Change The Law

Criminal Justice Minister David Hanson today vowed to take account of the views of thousands of Ulster people demanding an end to the controversial 50% remission for dangerous sex offenders. Petitions signed by over 20,000 Belfast Telegraph readers, concerned that serious sex offenders and violent criminals are walking free after serving half of their sentences, were presented to him today at Stormont. This paper launched the Justice for Attracta Campaign in response to public outrage after retired librarian Attracta Harron was murdered by a convicted rapist who had been released after serving half of his sentence.

Since then we have been inundated with tens of thousands of messages of support demanding the Government tighten up the rules over prisoners.

Accepting the petitions today, Mr Hanson said: “Thank you very much to the Belfast Telegraph for organising this petition and to the 20,000-plus people who returned the coupons to show their support for what was a horrific crime and show their support for strengthening measures to protect the public.

“I am very aware of the fact that this needs to be examined and I will look at it very carefully. I will be making an announcement about the Sentencing Review Policy in September or October and my first objective is to look at the protection of the public. I will be taking into account the views of the public and looking at what I can do.”

North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds, who asked the Solicitor General to support our campaign, said: “These are dangerous criminals and I hope that the Minister listens to the people.”

The Telegraph launched the campaign in April following public outrage when it emerged that Mrs Harron’s murderer Trevor Hamilton had just been released from prison after serving half of a seven year sentence for a brutal rape when he killed her.

All criminals in Ulster, except those sentenced to life, are automatically released after serving half of the sentence imposed by the courts.

Belfast Telegraph Editor Martin Lindsay said: “We launched this campaign to make sure dangerous sex offenders are never released unduly early from our prisons and we would like to thank all those who supported our campaign.

“The Belfast Telegraph has been overwhelmed by the support of the Northern Ireland public. Obviously this is a subject which many thousands of people feel very strongly about and we hope that the Minister will listen to their voices.”

North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds, who asked the Solicitor General to support our campaign, said: “The Belfast Telegraph has had a fantastic response from the public and it shows just how important people think this issue is.

A primary total of 20,655 signatures supporting the Belfast Telegraph’s Justice For Attracta campaign, along with letters of support from the majority of Northern Ireland’s councils, will be presented to Minister Hanson at Stormont today.

However, that total is expected to grow over the coming weeks.

Thousands more petitions have yet to be handed in and they will be forwarded to the Minister before he announces the details of a review of the sentencing framework in Northern Ireland at the end of the summer.

The Belfast Telegraph launched the Justice For Attracta campaign in April following public outrage when it emerged that Mrs Harron’s murderer Trevor Hamilton had just been released from prison after serving half of a seven-year sentence for a brutal rape when he killed her.

William McAuley, of the multi-agency Masram, which tracks and assesses known sex offenders, backed the campaign.

He said sex offenders and violent prisoners should not be released until it is certain they no longer pose a risk to the public.

There are 29 sex offenders waiting to walk free from prison under 50% remission. Over the past five years almost 300 Ulster sex offenders were released after serving just half of their term.

Belfast Telegraph Editor Martin Lindsay said: “We launched this campaign to make sure dangerous sex offenders are never released unduly early from our prisons and we would like to thank all those who supported our campaign.

“The Belfast Telegraph has been overwhelmed by the support of the Northern Ireland public. Obviously this is a subject which many thousands of people feel very strongly about and we hope that the Minister will listen to their voices.”

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