By: Mark Fitzgerald
When Northern Ireland authorities on Tuesday reversed its parole policy for “dangerous” prisoners, the Belfast Telegraph lost no time in claiming the credit.
“Justice for Attracta as Government caves in to Telegraph reader power,” crowed a note from the afternoon paper’s editor, Martin Lindsay, that was posted on its Web site, http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/.
“The Government today scrapped its controversial 50% remission policy for dangerous prisoners after bowing to reader pressure from a high profile Belfast Telegraph campaign,” Lindsay wrote.
Lindsay added that 35,000 Telegraph readers signed petitions supporting the paper’s “Justice For Attracta campaign” that sought the abolition of the policy of automatically releasing from prison convicted sex offenders and violent criminals after they had served 50% of their sentence. The petitions were delivered to Prime Minister Tony Blair’s official residence at 10 Downing St.
The Telegraph began its campaign to end early release of prisoners after reporting on the case of a retired woman, Attracta Harron, who was murdered in Strabane allegedly by Trevor Hamilton, who just weeks before had been released from prison half-way through a seven-year sentence for rape.
The paper quoted Member of Parliament Nigel Dodds as saying “the result of the Belfast Telegraph campaign should mean the streets of Northern Ireland are a safer place.”
Northern Ireland first introduced the 50% remission policy in 1976 during the “Troubles,” when the great number of Republican and Loyalist guerrillas arrested led to difficulty housing prisoners, the Telegraph said.