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Activist: victims might have been protected if paedophile’s release had been publicised

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Shuja Amon Muhammad (File photograph)

Three young victims of a repeat sex offender might have been protected if the public had been warned about his early prison release, according to a child safety campaigner.

Sheelagh Cooper spoke out after Shuja Amon Muhammad, 48, was convicted of touching two schoolgirls for a sexual purpose between August 1 and September 30, 2021 — just weeks after he was found guilty of intruding on the privacy of another girl.

All the offences happened after Muhammad was released early from a ten-year prison sentence for molesting a seven-year-old girl.

Before that jail term, he was convicted of sexually touching a ten-year-old girl and intruding on her privacy by trying to kiss her on the mouth after she turned 11.

There was no public warning issued by the Attorney-General upon Muhammad’s 2020 release to indicate that he might pose a danger, and because he was not paroled but was deemed to have completed his sentence, no parole conditions were attached to his return to society.

Ms Cooper told The Royal Gazette: “The recent further conviction of repeat paedophile Muhammad raises so many questions about our commitment to keeping little girls safe in our community.

“Why was the decision taken at the ministry level not to notify the public when he was released?

“The provision clearly exists to publish his details along with a picture the moment he set foot back in the community. This was never done.”

She asked: “Were we worried about his civil rights?

“Was it not possible that those little girls whose lives have been for ever altered might have been saved had parents or friends or neighbours known what he was capable of?

Sheelagh Cooper (File photograph)

“I find it really astounding that a repeat sex offender was allowed back into the community … without a word of warning. A very sad day for these little girls.”

Ms Cooper has previously alleged that Muhammad did not take part in a sex offender treatment programme before his early release from jail in October 2020, basing her claim on information shared by inmates and others about the lack of such treatment at Westgate.

The founder of the Coalition for the Protection of Children said of Muhammad: “This man was let out after two thirds of his sentence — presumably for ‘good behaviour’ — without even so much as parole to monitor him.

“At the end of the day even if he had taken the programme, it clearly didn’t work.”

She added that the Commissioner of Corrections needed to “grapple” with why Muhammad could get early release despite allegedly having had no treatment and why a pre-release report deemed him to not be a risk to society.

Her comments follow concerns raised in January by Debi Ray-Rivers, the founder and executive director of Saving Children and Revealing Secrets, who questioned the level of treatment Muhammad received in jail and asked how many qualified experts were involved in the decision to release him back into the public.

Muhammad, who is remanded in custody, is due to be sentenced on March 17 for the offence of intruding on a young girl’s privacy.

His sentencing for touching the two girls for a sexual purpose is set for May 15.

Ms Cooper said she hoped the judge would take into consideration that the vast majority of serial paedophiles have a history of being sexually abused as a child and that Muhammad would likely remain a “highly dangerous and prolific sex offender” without treatment to address any such trauma.

Michael Weeks, the Minister of National Security, said on Friday: “I was shocked to hear that this individual had reoffended and that the victims were children. My thoughts are with the victims and their families.”

The minister said he couldn’t discuss details about Muhammad’s case, adding: “Since February 2019 any individual convicted of a sex offence must undergo mandatory programmes and supervision upon release and meet all other provisions of the Criminal Code (Sex Offender Management) Amendment Act 2018.”

There was no response from the Attorney-General, Kathy Lynn Simmons, to a request for comment for this article.

But a spokesman for her chambers said in May: “The Attorney-General’s decisions are guided by different factors in each individual case, including psychological assessments provided by the Department of Corrections.”

Ms Simmons told Parliament in July 2019: “Sex offenders who do not complete the required programmes during incarceration are not released at their earliest release date, nor released on parole.”

An information officer for the Parole Board, in response to a public access to information request, said Muhammad was not released on parole but on his “amended earliest release date …” and “ … therefore there were no parole conditions on his release”.