One of two sex offenders tied up and beaten by ‘vigilantes’ in south Armagh earlier this year was in court on Monday for breaching the terms of his licence.
James White, described in court as a Category Two sex offender, appeared at Belfast Crown Court, where he admitted two breaches of a Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO).
The 48-year old, whose address was given as Antrim Road in Belfast, pleaded guilty to owning both a Samsung mobile and a Samsung tablet last October, without the prior approval of a designated risk manager.
He was handed a two-year sentence by Judge Geoffery Miller QC, which will be divided between a year in prison, followed by a year on licence.
During sentencing, a barrister representing White said the breaches occurred when he “disengaged” with probation, then went on the run.
She also revealed White has been in police custody following an incident in April involving her client and a second man, Alexis Guesto, where the pair were “subjected to a savage attack, tied up and beaten ... which appeared on social media”.
Crown prosecutor Gareth Purvis said White’s breaches came to light last October, when police carried out a search of his hostel accommodation. During the search, a tablet and mobile phone were seized and later analysed.
Despite White calling a woman, and accessing the internet searching for dogs and houses, the devices were not used for any activity deemed criminal.
It was, however, a breach of the terms of a Sexual Offences Prevention Order, and he later left the hostel without permission in February.
Mr Purvis said: “He was at large in the south, then made this way to the north. He was found with another sex offender in the south Armagh area in April.”
The court heard White had 47 previous convictions on both sides of the border which included sexual offences against “males, females and children”, with his last sexual offence against a child committed in 1994.
It also emerged that White was made the subject of a SOPO at Dungannon Crown Court last March, but he breached this last October by owning the Samsung mobile and tablet.
Defence barrister Leona Gillen said her client accepted he had the devices, but said “there is nothing to suggest they were used for nefarious purposes”, adding the offending was at the lower end of the scale.
She also said it was White himself who alerted probation that he had them, and that when arrested he co-operated with police. Telling the court White was “contrite” and “acknowledges he had done wrong”, Ms Gillen said White had “spent a successful period in the community” between his release from custody last year, and going on the run in February.
Regarding the incident in south Armagh, which led to White’s arrest, Ms Gillen said: “No matter what someone thinks of the offences Mr White has committed, nobody deserves that level of violence and to be treated in this way.”
Judge Miller said White “chose to disengage” with the terms of his licence after being released from custody last year, and “failed to avail of the assistance of Probation Service”.
Judge Miller also spoke of how White came to be arrested in April, and said: “It is not for vigilantes and so-called paedophile hunters to take the law into their own hands.”
The judge told White he will not be eligible for release until next September, and recommended that as part of his licence, White participates in programmes designed to reduce any risk he poses to the public.