Local parents concern over child abuse charges

January 8, 2013

By Christine Keighery

The news that a Newtownhamilton resident has been charged with a string of child abuse offences has sparked concern amongst families living in the area.

Twenty four year old Jared Berry, a South African native with an address on the Ninemile road in Newtownhamilton, appeared in Omagh Magistrate’s court last Tuesday charged with fourteen counts of child abuse.

One of the charges relates to a rape which is alleged to have taken place in the south of Ireland while all the remaining allegations are understood to relate to offences within the Omagh district over a three year period.   Berry faces six charges of gross indecency with a child, three charges of rape, three charges of buggery with a girl and two charges of indecently assaulting a female.  All fourteen charges are of a historical nature.

District Judge, Bernie Kelly, rejected a defence solicitor’s application to prevent the accused from being named in the press, stating that she felt there was something “inherently wrong” for someone facing such charges to “hide behind the identity of the injured party.”

Since his details were revealed, worried Newtownhamilton residents have taken to social media sites to voice their concerns that, despite facing such serious charges, Berry remains living in the area, close to three local schools.

Local Councillor Jimmy Mc Creesh said he shared the concerns of residents and applauded Judge Kelly’s refusal to grant permission that the accused’s name be withheld from the press.

He also revealed that he has spoken to the Housing Executive about Mr Berry, a NIHE tenant, and expressed his annoyance that the Housing Executive were unaware of his background.

The Councillor said that, while he understands the Executive have a responsibility to find housing for their tenants, he feels they need to be aware of the safety of the greater community. Councillor McCreesh confirmed he will be requesting a meeting with the Executive to clarify their position in relation to notifying communities about neighbouring tenants.

A PSNI spokesperson sought to allay the fears of the community by highlighting for The Examiner the Public Protection Arrangements process in place in Northern Ireland for assessing and managing the risk posed by sex offenders.

“Public protection arrangements are understood as co-operation between police, probation and social services focused almost exclusively on the assessment and management of risk posed by offenders in the community.

“Risk management is both complex and dynamic. For each offender it involves the preparation of a plan to address the specific risks identified in relation to the individual whilst they are in the community. Risk management plans will include actions to monitor the behaviour and attitudes of the offender and, when necessary, intervene in the individual’s life in order to minimise the risk of serious harm to others. These arrangements apply to convicted offenders.

“In cases where individuals are subject to bail conditions imposed by the Courts, specialist investigating officers are aware of the bail conditions and monitor them closely.”

The spokesperson confirmed that police would not comment on specific details of individuals but encouraged any member of the public with concerns regarding any aspect of public safety to contact them directly to discuss.

Jared Berry’s case has been adjourned until January 15th for the preparation of a full file.