Probation for child sex offender

Robert Liddle pictured following an earlier court appearance. Pic by Mark Jamieson.
Robert Liddle pictured following an earlier court appearance. Pic by Mark Jamieson.

A “HIGH risk” child sex offender who travelled across Northern Ireland to go swimming and “leer at children” in a north Antrim holiday centre pool was put on three years’ probation “to keep the public safe” on Thursday.

Antrim Crown Court Judge Corinne Philpott QC told 63-year-old Robert John Liddle that any jail sentence she could impose would not be long enough.

Liddle, of Moorlough Road, Lisnaskea, was spotted by the poolside of the Clare Road Silver Cliffs Holiday Village in Ballycastle on July 29 last year by a holidaymaker from his home county of Fermanagh who reported her sighting.

Liddle admitted going to the holiday park – “which afforded him access to a child or young person” – was in breach of his Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO) and that he should first have obtained “consent from his designated risk manager” before making the unauthorised trip.

Judge Philpott told Liddle that the three-year probation order – during which he will undergo an intensive sex offenders’ programme including one-to-one supervision – was the best way “to keep the public safe”.

Earlier the judge remarked that “any sentence I would give him for this is not going to be significantly lengthy to treat the underlying issues...”

Earlier, Judge Philpott said: “Liddle is going to have to understand that he needs assistance to stop himself... That is what the SOPO is for – to stop him putting himself at risk of being in the company of children, to stop him reoffending.”

Judge Philpott accepted that on this occasion Liddle had not harmed any child, but had “put himself in a situation where he could leer at children... given the opportunity he may have done something else but he did not have the opportunity”.

Liddle has convictions for sexually abusing children as young as six and in 2000 was described as “a danger to young girls” when jailed for two years and put on the Sex Offenders’ Register for 10 years for indecently assaulting an 11-year-old.

A five-year SOPO was imposed on Liddle in March 2010.