Sex ban IT man loses appeal – but judge labels order 'unpoliceable'

And still no criminal conviction in sight

Crown courtroom. Pic: Shutterstock
Pic: Shutterstock

+Comment Former IT contractor John O'Neill has lost his appeal against the Sexual Risk Order imposed on him last year – but the judge said the 24 hours' notice he had to give police in advance of having sex was “unpoliceable”.

District Judge Adrian Lower, sitting at York Magistrates' Court on Friday, refused to discharge the order imposed against O'Neill.

O'Neill argued it makes him unemployable because he must physically hand any phone or computer he uses to police for examination.

Judge Lower said, “I have found Mr O’Neill to be a vain, manipulative and grandstanding individual who sought to persuade me that black is white and used the valuable time of professionals to describe sexual fantasies he may or may not have,” according to the Guardian.

O'Neill, who has an interest in sado-masochistic sex, had spoken to his GP in 2014. She, fearing that what he described was a confession to having choked a woman unconscious during sex and having heard him say that he needed women “to be scared, or I don't respond” in bed, contacted police. She recorded in her notes that “[he] thinks he may have raped someone – it went further than she expected.”

A psychiatric nurse also testified in a statement to the court that O'Neill had told him he was having sexually violent thoughts.

After a retrial last November, O'Neill was cleared of rape by a jury. He has still not been convicted of any criminal offence.

North Yorkshire Police applied for the Sexual Risk Order (SRO) to be imposed on O'Neill after Judge Simon Bourne-Arton QC declared him a “dangerous individual” in court, immediately after his acquittal.

After the hearing O’Neill told the Guardian: “It looks as though I may be able to get my life back after this. I’m still concerned about what the terms of the order will be and I’m very disappointed that the court decided it needed to continue. But it looks as though I will be able to work again, and because of that I may be able to find a home again.”

While the SRO will continue in force, with O'Neill subject to restrictions on his use of the internet and mobile phones, and having to report his address to the police in the same manner as a registered sex offender, the order's terms will be varied at a hearing on 22 September.

Comment

While O'Neill seems to be a disturbed individual, the SRO itself is the problem here. If the police cannot get their act together well enough to convince a jury that this man has done something criminal, then it is they who have failed to protect the public from the risk he may pose.

Most concerningly, the SRO allows both judge and police to completely ignore the jury's verdict and proceed to impose bans and prohibitions upon O'Neill as if he had been found guilty of criminal wrong-doing. While this is completely legal and cannot be challenged any further – the various human rights laws and treaties that apply to the UK are riddled with “except as according to law” get-out clauses – it is morally indefensible. Either gather enough evidence to convict the man you think is a wrong'un or accept you're not good enough at your job.

When jury verdicts can be safely ignored by those in power because they just know in their hearts that the defendant is guilty regardless, what is the point of having a criminal justice system at all?

Judge Dredd was a comic strip, not a utopian dream for all mankind. ®


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