A paedophile who was jailed after hiding in Turkey could be freed because during a court hearing he was – on the run.
Child molester Alfred Palmer, 55, has been allowed to appeal his five year jail term after his lawyers found a legal loophole.
Palmer and his boyfriend preyed on teenage boys but in 2006 their trial collapsed and he was allowed to go on holiday – because he was ‘stressed’.
He went on the run in Turkey and in 2007 he received an indeterminate sentence for imprisonment for public protection (IPP) and jailed in his absence at Plymouth Crown Court.
An IPP is intended to protect the public against criminals regarded as too dangerous to be released when the term of their original sentence has finished.
Palmer was found guilty of four indecent assaults against two teenage boys and the judge passed the indefinite sentence because he posed a serious risk to the public.
But the Judge, Francis Gilbert, QC, then realised that the IPP was not lawful because Palmer’s offences pre-dated the legislation which introduced the sentence.
He changed it to a five-year term and the court registered recorded the sentence.
Palmer had spent two years fighting extradition before being returned to Britain to start his five year sentence in November 2011.
But Palmer’s legal team say a change of sentence has to be made by the Court of Appeal in the presence of the defendant.
Palmer was 1,000 miles away in Turkey at the time – so they say the original sentence was unlawful.
Palmer, of Stoke, appeared at Exeter Crown Court on Friday where the original trial judge sent the case to the Court Of Appeal.
Mr Malcolm Hawkes, defending, said Palmer will also argue that the two years he spent in a Turkish prison while fighting extradition should count as part of his sentence.
That would mean Palmer would almost certainly be due for immediate release – after police spent hundreds of thousands of pounds and years bringing him to justice.
Mr Hawkes said: “A sentence pronounced in court can only be changed by the Court of Appeal, and they should also consider if the time spent in custody in Turkey should count towards his sentence.
“This case needs to be listed for an urgent hearing at the Court of Appeal.”
Palmer and boyfriend Daniel Tapper, 56, preyed on teenage boys who were looking for a home after leaving council care.
They ran a lettings agency and used their position to bully the young tenants who were forced to strip off and take part in sex acts.
But Palmer went on the run in May 2006 after Judge Gilbert QC allowed them leave the country mid trial.
Palmer and Tapper were both traced to Turkey and arrested in 2009 following an appeal by BBC’s Crimewatch.
In their absence Palmer, of Plymouth, Devon, had been found guilty of four counts of indecent assault on a male person over a five year period and jailed for five years.
Tapper, of Mansfield in Nottinghamshire, had been convicted of one charge of indecent assault on a male person and jailed for three years.
Tapper was brought back in early 2010 and sentenced to a further 36 months for jumping bail.
Mr Andrew Maitland, prosecuting during the latest hearing, said the case had to go to the Court of Appeal because any correction of a sentence has to be made within 28 days and with the defendant present.
Judge Gilbert said he hopes the Court of Appeal confirms the five-year sentence.
Palmer also faces an additional sentence for jumping bail, but that case was adjourned indefinitely.