Man convicted of trying to pay for sexual services

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Under legislation brought in in 2015 it became an offence to pay or attempt to pay for sexual services in Northern Ireland

A Dungannon man has been convicted of attempting to pay for sexual services.

Under the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Act 2015 it became an offence to pay or attempt to pay for sexual services in Northern Ireland.

Convicted on Monday, Alan Hamilton, of Drumcoo Green, is a registered sex offender.

It emerged the 58-year-old had "gone absent" before the hearing at Dungannon Magistrates Court was ready to begin.

However, the case went ahead and after studying papers, the judge convicted Hamilton in his absence of attempting to pay for sexual services as well as breaching a Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO).

Proceedings concluded with the issuing of a warrant for his arrest.

There were further charges of entering into a relationship without prior disclosure and using sexual language with a person he was not in an established relationship with, which is prohibited under the SOPO.

According to the dates, Hamilton committed the offences while going through the court system for other sexualised criminality.

Sentencing powers

The judge previously expressed concerns over a Public Prosecution Service (PPS) decision to keep Hamilton's case at magistrates court instead of transferring to crown court.

Despite sending the file back to a senior prosecutor for review the judge was later advised the decision remained, despite his reservations around sentencing powers.

In response to a media enquiry, a PPS spokeswoman said: "All prosecution decisions are taken in line with the PPS Code for prosecutors.

"Every case is considered individually.

"When a case can be heard either in the magistrates court or the crown court, we take into account a variety of factors including whether the court has sufficient sentencing powers to reflect the gravity of the offence when deciding the most appropriate venue for a case."

Hamilton has two separate sexual convictions on record.

He is awaiting sentencing for sexually communicating with children in June 2018, which he initially denied then changed his plea just before Christmas.

Just four months later and knowing the matter involving the children was pending, Hamilton committed another sexual offence, this time targeting a waitress in a restaurant.

Correction: This article was updated 20 February 2020. An earlier version was based on information from the Northern Ireland Court Service which it has now revised.