30/08/2005

Review of sex offenders law pledged following Rory murder

Scotland’s First Minister Jack McConnell has pledged to review legislation dealing with sex offenders, following the murder of schoolboy Rory Blackhall.

On Tuesday, it emerged that a man found dead by police during a house search in connection with the 11-year-old’s murder was on bail awaiting trial for child sex abuse charges.

Simon Harris, 37, had been charged with abusing three girls, aged between two and 11, between 1993 and 2000. He had appeared in court in February, but had been released on bail.

He had been due to re-appear in court on August 22, the day after Rory’s body was discovered, but had failed to appear. A warrant had been issued for his arrest.

Mr McConnell said he had “no doubt whatsoever” that the legislation governing the management of sex offenders in the community, the bail system and court bureaucracy, needed to be updated. He said: “The work that we have been doing to prepare an announcement due very soon on bail, on sex offenders in the community and on further reforms of the courts will be updated now as a result of the events in West Lothian.

“We will look very carefully at what has happened here, learn the lessons if there are lessons to be learned and make sure that any additional measures we have to propose are included in the proposals we are putting forward in the weeks ahead.”

Kenny MacAskill, justice spokesperson for the Scottish National Party, said that Mr Harris should not have been released on bail due to the nature of his crimes. He said: “We need to ask why someone on serious charges against children is granted bail.

“In terms of serious offences, where a charge is made, the person should be remanded pending trial.”

Police discovered Mr Harris’ body in his house on Sunday. They had broken into the house after receiving information that he fitted the description of a man police were looking for in connection with the murder.

A post mortem was carried out on his body on Monday and police said they are not seeking anyone else in connection with his death.

There had been reports that Mr Harris was found hanged in a garden shed, but these have been unconfirmed by police.

Rory, 11, disappeared on August 18 after his mother dropped him off at Meldrum Primary School, West Lothian. His body was found on August 21 in woodland about a mile from Mr Harris’ home.

A post-mortem found that Rory had died of asphyxiation, but police have not revealed if he was sexually assaulted nor have they confirmed the time of death.

The inquiry into Rory’s death is continuing.

(KMcA/SP)

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