SEX OFFENDER REGISTRATION03-Jun-2012
Law Article by: Geoff Harrison | Sydney Criminal Barrister | Sydney Criminal Lawyer | Published 3/6/2012
The Child Protection (Offenders Registration) Act 2000 (the Act) requires certain sex offenders to provide personal information to the Commissioner of Police within a given time frame (see below) – which can apply to child sexual offences for persons charged, convicted in NSW or for overseas offences. The offences to which this Act applies are class 1 (murder of a child or sexual intercourse with a child) or a class 2 offence (act of indecency against a child).
The type of information required to be supplied is set out under s9 of the Act (see below). It is an offence either not to provide such information or to provide false information (see ss17 and 18 below). The penalties for not complying with the Act are 500 penalty units ($55,000) and/or 5 years imprisonment.
Apart from relevant legislation the second reading speech made in parliament by the Hon. Mr. Whelan (1st June 2000) is set out below.
CHILD PROTECTION (OFFENDERS REGISTRATION) ACT 2000 - SECT 3A
3A Registrable persons
(1) A "registrable person" is a person whom a court has at any time (whether before, on or after the commencement of this section) sentenced in respect of a registrable offence, and includes a corresponding registrable person.
(2) Unless a person is a corresponding registrable person, a person is not a registrable person merely because the person:
(a) is a person in respect of whom a court has made an order under section 10 of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999 or section 33 (1) (a) of the Children (Criminal Proceedings) Act 1987 (or an equivalent order under the laws of a foreign jurisdiction) in respect of a Class 1 or Class 2 offence, or
(c) as a child committed:
(i) a single offence involving an act of indecency, or
(ii) a single offence under section 578B or 578C (2A) of the Crimes Act 1900 or an offence of possessing or publishing child pornography (in whatever terms expressed) under the laws of a foreign jurisdiction, or
(iii) a single offence under section 21G (1) of the Summary Offences Act 1988 or section 91J (1), 91K (1) or 91L (1) of the Crimes Act 1900 , or
(iv) a single offence (including an offence committed under the laws of a foreign jurisdiction) that falls within a class of offence the regulations prescribe for the purposes of this subparagraph, or
(v) a single offence an element of which is an intention to commit an offence of a kind listed in this paragraph, or
(vi) a single offence of attempting, or of conspiracy or incitement, to commit an offence of a kind listed in this paragraph, or
(d) is a person whom a court has found guilty of a registrable offence before 15 October 2001, unless the person is an existing controlled person or the offence results in the making of a child protection registration order against the person.
(3) A person is not a registrable person if the person is receiving protection under a foreign witness protection law specified by the regulations for the purposes of this subsection, or has the same status as such a person under an order made under a corresponding Act specified by the regulations for the purposes of this section.
(4) For the purposes of this section, it is irrelevant whether or not a person may lodge, or has lodged, an appeal in respect of a finding of guilt, sentence or child protection registration order.
(5) A reference to a single offence in this section includes a reference to more than one offence of the same kind arising from the same incident.
"registrable offence" means an offence that is:
(a) a Class 1 offence, or
(b) a Class 2 offence, or
(c) an offence that results in the making of a child protection registration order.
CHILD PROTECTION (OFFENDERS REGISTRATION) ACT 2000 - SECT 3E
3E Child protection registration orders made after conclusion of criminal proceedings
(1) The Local Court may, on application by the Commissioner of Police, order a person who has been sentenced by a court of New South Wales in respect of an offence that is not a Class 1 offence or a Class 2 offence to comply with the reporting obligations under this Act.
(2) The Local Court may make an order under this section only if:
(a) the Court is satisfied that the person poses a risk to the lives or sexual safety of one or more children, or of children generally, and
(b) the sentence imposed on the person in respect of the offence was not an order under section 10 of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999 or under section 33 (1) (a) of the Children (Criminal Proceedings) Act 1987 .
Note: The effect of subsection (2) (b) is to prevent a child protection registration order being made if an order is made dismissing the charge or conditionally discharging the offender.
(3) An application for an order under this section must be made within 21 days after the person with respect to whom the order is sought is sentenced for the relevant offence.
(4) For the purposes of Division 6 of Part 3, if the Local Court makes an order in respect of a person under this section, the person is taken to have been found guilty of, and sentenced for, a Class 2 offence on the date an order under this section is made.
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3H Risk to sexual safety of children-meaning
(1) For the purposes of this Part, a person poses a "risk to the lives or sexual safety of one or more children, or of children generally" if there is a risk that the person will engage in conduct that may constitute a Class 1 offence or a Class 2 offence against or in respect of a child or children.
(2) In order for a court to be satisfied that a person poses a risk to the lives or sexual safety of one or more children, or of children generally, it is not necessary for the court to be able to identify a risk to particular children, or a particular class of children.
"Class 1 offence" means:
(a) the offence of murder, where the person murdered is a child, or
(b) an offence that involves sexual intercourse with a child (other than an offence that is a Class 2 offence), or
(c) an offence against section 66EA of the Crimes Act 1900 , or
(d) an offence against section 272.8, 272.10 (if it relates to an underlying offence against section 272.8) or 272.11 of the Criminal Code of the Commonwealth, or an offence against section 272.18, 272.19 or 272.20 of the Criminal Code of the Commonwealth if it relates to another Class 1 offence as elsewhere defined in this section, or
(d1) an offence against section 80A of the Crimes Act 1900 , where the person against whom the offence is committed is a child, or
(e) any offence under a law of a foreign jurisdiction that, if it had been committed in New South Wales, would have constituted an offence of a kind listed in this definition, or
(f) an offence under a law of a foreign jurisdiction that the regulations state is a Class 1 offence, or
(g) an offence an element of which is an intention to commit an offence of a kind listed in this definition, or
(h) an offence of attempting, or of conspiracy or incitement, to commit an offence of a kind listed in this definition, or
(i) an offence that, at the time it was committed:
(i) was a Class 1 offence for the purposes of this Act, or
(ii) in the case of an offence occurring before the commencement of this definition, was an offence of a kind listed in this definition.
"Class 2 offence" means:
(a) an offence that involves an act of indecency against or in respect of a child, being an offence that is punishable by imprisonment for 12 months or more, or
(a1) an offence under section 66EB of the Crimes Act 1900 , or
(b) an offence under section 86 of the Crimes Act 1900 , where the person against whom the offence is committed is a child, except where the person found guilty of the offence was, when the offence was committed or at some earlier time, a parent or carer of the child, or
(c) an offence under section 80D or 80E of the Crimes Act 1900 , where the person against whom the offence is committed is a child, or
(d) an offence under section 91D, 91E, 91F, 91G or 91H of the Crimes Act 1900 (other than an offence committed by a child prostitute), or
(e) an offence under section 578B of the Crimes Act 1900 , or
(f) an offence under section 91J, 91K or 91L of the Crimes Act 1900 where the person who was being observed or filmed as referred to in those sections was then a child, or
(g) an offence against section 272.9, 272.10 (if it relates to an underlying offence against section 272.9), 272.14 or 272.15 of the Criminal Code of the Commonwealth, or an offence against section 272.18, 272.19 or 272.20 of the Criminal Code of the Commonwealth if it relates to another Class 2 offence as elsewhere defined in this section, or
(h) an offence against section 270.6 or 270.7 of the Criminal Code of the Commonwealth where the person against whom the offence is committed is a child, or
(i) an offence against section 233BAB of the Customs Act 1901 of the Commonwealth involving items of child pornography or of child abuse material, or
(j) any offence under a law of a foreign jurisdiction that, if it had been committed in New South Wales, would have constituted an offence of a kind listed in this definition, or
(k) an offence under a law of a foreign jurisdiction that the regulations state is a Class 2 offence, or
(l) an offence an element of which is an intention to commit an offence of a kind listed in this definition, or
(m) an offence of attempting, or of conspiracy or incitement, to commit an offence of a kind listed in this definition, or
(n) an offence that, at the time it was committed:
(i) was a Class 2 offence for the purposes of this Act, or
(ii) in the case of an offence occurring before the commencement of this definition, was an offence of a kind listed in this definition.
CHILD PROTECTION (OFFENDERS REGISTRATION) ACT 2000 - SECT 9
9 Relevant personal information to be reported
(1) For the purposes of this Act, the "relevant personal information" to be reported by a registrable person consists of the following information:
(a) the person’s name, together with any other name by which the person is or has previously been known,
(b) in respect of each name other than the person’s current name, the period during which the person was known by that other name,
(c) the person’s date of birth,
(d) the address of each of the premises at which the person generally resides or, if the person does not generally reside at any particular premises, the name of each of the localities in which the person can generally be found,
(e) the names and dates of birth of any children who generally reside in the same household as that in which the person generally resides, or with whom the person has regular unsupervised contact,
(f) if the person is employed:
(i) the nature of the person’s employment, and
(ii) the name of the person’s employer (if any), and
(iii) the address of each of the premises at which the person is generally employed or, if the person is not generally employed at any particular premises, the name of each of the localities in which the person is generally employed,
(g) details of the person’s affiliation with any club or organisation that has child membership or child participation in its activities,
(h) the make, model, colour and registration number of any motor vehicle owned by, or generally driven by, the person,
(i) details of any tattoos or permanent distinguishing marks that the person has (including details of any tattoo or mark that has been removed),
(j) whether the person has ever been found guilty in any foreign jurisdiction of a registrable offence or of an offence that required the person to report to a corresponding registrar or been subject to a corresponding child protection registration order and, if so, where that finding occurred or that order was made,
(k) if the person has been in government custody since the person was sentenced or released from government custody (as the case may be) in respect of a registrable offence or corresponding registrable offence, details of when or where that government custody occurred,
(l) if, at the time of making a report under this Division, the person leaves, or intends to leave, New South Wales to travel elsewhere in Australia on an average of at least once a month (irrespective of the length of any such absence):
(i) in general terms, the reason for travelling, and
(ii) in general terms, the frequency and destinations of the travel,
(m) details of any carriage service (within the meaning of the Telecommunications Act 1997 of the Commonwealth) used, or intended to be used, by the person,
(n) details of any internet service provider or provider of a carriage service (within the meaning of the Telecommunications Act 1997 of the Commonwealth) used, or intended to be used, by the person,
(o) details of the type of any internet connection used, or intended to be used, by the person, including whether the connection is a wireless, broadband, ADSL or dial-up connection,
(p) details of any email addresses, internet user names, instant messaging user names, chat room user names or any other user name or identity used, or intended to be used, by the person through the internet or other electronic communication service,
(q) any other information prescribed by the regulations.
(2) For the purposes of this section:
(a) a registrable person does not generally reside at any particular premises unless the person resides at those premises for at least 14 days (whether consecutive or not) in any period of 12 months, and
(b) a child does not generally reside in the same household as a registrable person unless they reside together in that household for at least 3 days (whether consecutive or not) in any period of 12 months, and
(c) a registrable person does not have regular unsupervised contact with a child unless the person has unsupervised contact with the child for at least 3 days (whether consecutive or not) in any period of 12 months, and
(d) a registrable person is not generally employed at any particular premises unless the person is employed at those premises for at least 14 days (whether consecutive or not) in any period of 12 months, and
(e) a registrable person does not generally drive a particular motor vehicle unless the person drives that motor vehicle on at least 14 days (whether consecutive or not) in any period of 12 months.
(3) In this section, "employer" and "employment" have the same meanings as they have, respectively, in the Commission for Children and Young People Act 1998 .
CHILD PROTECTION (OFFENDERS REGISTRATION) ACT 2000 - SECT 9A
9A When initial report must be made
(1) A registrable person of a kind referred to in Column 1 of the Table to this subsection must report the person’s relevant personal information to the Commissioner of Police within the period specified in relation to the person in Column 2 of the Table.
Period for initial report
A registrable person (other than a corresponding registrable person) who enters government custody in New South Wales before, on or after the commencement of this section as a consequence of having being sentenced for a registrable offence and who ceases to be in government custody while in New South Wales
Within 7 days after the registrable person ceases to be in government custody
Any other registrable person who is sentenced for a registrable offence in New South Wales
Within 7 days after the registrable person is sentenced for the registrable offence
A registrable person who enters New South Wales from a foreign jurisdiction and who has not previously been required under this Act to report his or her relevant personal information to the Commissioner of Police
Within 7 days after entering and remaining in New South Wales for 14 or more consecutive days, not counting any days spent in government custody
A corresponding registrable person who has not previously reported the person’s relevant personal information to the Commissioner of Police and who is in New South Wales on the date on which the person becomes a corresponding registrable person
Within 7 days after the person becomes a corresponding registrable person or 7 days after the person ceases to be in government custody whichever is the later
(2) Despite subsection (1), a registrable person must report the person’s relevant personal information to the Commissioner of Police before leaving New South Wales unless the person entered New South Wales from a foreign jurisdiction and remained in New South Wales for less than 14 consecutive days, not counting any days spent in government custody.
CHILD PROTECTION (OFFENDERS REGISTRATION) ACT 2000 - SECT 17
17 Offence of failing to comply with reporting obligations
(1) A registrable person must not fail to comply with any of the person’s reporting obligations without reasonable excuse.
Maximum penalty: 500 penalty units or imprisonment for 5 years, or both.
(2) In determining whether a registrable person had a reasonable excuse for failing to comply with the person’s reporting obligations, the court before which the proceedings are being heard is to have regard to the following matters:
(a) the person’s age,
(b) whether the person has a disability that affects the person’s ability to understand, or to comply with, those obligations,
(b1) whether the form of the notification given to the person as to the person’s obligations was adequate to inform the person of those obligations, having regard to the person’s circumstances,
(c) any matter prescribed by the regulations,
(d) any other matter the court considers appropriate.
(3) It is a defence to proceedings for an offence arising under this section if it is established by or on behalf of the registrable person charged with the offence that, at the time the offence is alleged to have occurred, the person had not received notice, and was otherwise unaware, of the person’s reporting obligations.
CHILD PROTECTION (OFFENDERS REGISTRATION) ACT 2000 - SECT 18
18 Offence of furnishing false or misleading information
A person must not, in purported compliance with this Part, furnish information that the person knows to be false or misleading in a material particular.
Maximum penalty: 500 penalty units or imprisonment for 5 years, or both.
CHILD PROTECTION (OFFENDERS REGISTRATION) ACT 2000 - SECT 18A
18A Bar to prosecution for failing to report leaving New South Wales
(1) This section applies if a registrable person leaves New South Wales and is found guilty of failing to report his or her presence in a foreign jurisdiction as required by a corresponding Act.
(2) The registrable person is not to be prosecuted for a failure to comply with section 17 in respect of the travel out of New South Wales.
CHILD PROTECTION (OFFENDERS REGISTRATION) BILL
Bill introduced and read a first time.
Mr WHELAN (Strathfield—Minister for Police) [6.08 p.m.]: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time
This bill responds to recommendation 111 of the Wood royal commission paedophile inquiry and realises a key commitment in Protecting Our Children, the Carr Government’s 1999 child protection policy. The Carr Government has a proud child protection record. It has pursued this agenda with the support of the people of New South Wales. It has passed the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998, which will ensure all government agencies work together in responding to child abuse. We have established the Child Protection Enforcement Agency [CPEA] in the New South Wales Police Service, which has been recognised by the FBI as a world leader in investigating child abuse.
We have introduced joint Police Service-Department of Community Services [DOCS] investigations of child abuse matters and provided for the out of court audio and video recording of child abuse victims’ statements, reducing the traumatic impact child abuse investigations and legal proceedings may have on child abuse victims and their families. In 1998 the Carr Government introduced three Acts that acknowledge the recidivist nature of paedophile offending. Those Acts impose certain restrictions on child sex offenders after their release from prison into the community. This bill is the latest brick in the wall that the Carr Government is building around our most vulnerable—children—protecting them from abuse and exploitation. It sends out a clear message: the abuse of our children will not be tolerated and all possible steps will be taken to prevent, investigate and prosecute this terrible crime.
All child sex offender registration schemes require child sex offenders in the community to inform government agencies, usually police, of changes to certain personal details. There are currently more than 60 such schemes worldwide. Child sex offender registration schemes recognise that many child sex offenders, when released into the community, may pose a further risk to child safety. Studies of child sex offender behaviour show a high rate of recidivism, which is even more alarming given the low rate of reporting of child sex offences. Currently all the American States have registration schemes, as do most Canadian provinces. The United Kingdom Sex Offender Act 1997 established a registration scheme in the United Kingdom. Child sex offender registration schemes have received some consideration in Australia.
Queensland has a limited registration scheme, where courts, in certain circumstances, may order that sex offenders report their name and address details to police. In 1997 the Wood royal commission recommended that consideration be given to the introduction of a system for the compulsory registration with police of all convicted child sex offenders, to be accompanied by requirements for the notification of changes of name and address, and for the verification of the register. The royal commission supported the registration scheme being developed along the lines of the United Kingdom Sex Offenders Act 1977. It did not support the Megan's law approach adopted in the United States of America, where registration information is frequently available to the public.
This bill also realises the commitment made in the Carr Government's Protecting Our Children policy. It will increase, and improve the accuracy of, police child sex offender intelligence; assist in the investigation and prosecution of child sex offences committed by recidivist offenders; provide a deterrent to reoffending; assist police from New South Wales and other jurisdictions in monitoring high risk child sex offenders; assist in the management of child sex offenders in the community; provide child abuse victims and their families with an increased sense of security; and assist police to enforce the Child Protection (Prohibited Employment) Act 1998 and the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Child Sexual Offences) Act 1998.
Superintendent John Heslop, the commander of the Child Protection Enforcement Agency [CPEA], has stated that the introduction of a child sex offender registration system will mean the CPEA and local police will be able to gather previously unavailable intelligence. He states, "if the CPEA and local police have knowledge of the whereabouts of convicted sex offenders, they are better prepared to prevent child sex abuse". However, the bill should not be regarded as a child protection cure all. Whilst it may deter some recidivist offending, it will not prevent everybody who has been convicted of a child sex offence from ever abusing another child. It is a sad fact that many child sex offenders offend compulsively and will reoffend_indeed, that is the premise that underpins the bill.
The bill will make a difference. It will make children safer. But it is only one of a number of child protection tools and its capabilities must not be overexaggerated. The bill establishes the first full child sex offender registration scheme in Australia, which will serve as a role model for other States and Territories. I will now outline the key provisions of the bill. Clause 3 contains a number of important definitions. One of the most important definitions is "child", which means any person under the age of 18. This is consistent with the Child Protection (Prohibited Employment) Act and the Commission for Children and Young People Act.
The offences that attract registration, known as "registrable offences", are broken down into class 1 and class 2 offences. The most serious offences, being child murder offences and offences involving sexual intercourse with a child, are categorised as class 1 offences. A number of child sex offender registration schemes also extend to child murder. The Government sees a clear need for this position to be adopted in New South Wales. Some child murders have an underlying sexual motivation, but there may be conviction for a sexual offence. There is not a more dangerous or despicable sex offender than one who murders his victim. There is a high rate of recidivism amongst such offenders, with United States of America research showing 53 per cent of offenders who abduct and murder a child have committed previous violent and sexual crimes against children.
I will now outline the class 2 offences covered by the bill. Like the three 1998 Acts impacting on post-release child sex offenders, the bill extends to indecency offences against children carrying a maximum penalty of imprisonment for 12 months or more. As with those Acts, the bill extends to the possession and publication of child pornography, as there are established links between such offences and indecent and sexual offences against children. The bill also extends to child prostitution offences, other than those committed by a child prostitute. The bill also reflects research that demonstrates a link between child kidnappings and child sex offending. The New South Wales Judicial Commission's study of sentencing trends for kidnapping offences shows that persons convicted of kidnapping offences are convicted for concurrent sexual and indecent assaults more frequently than any other offence.
Those figures are even more alarming, as in some kidnappings the victim escapes before they can be abused or the abuse is not reported or proved. Like a number of United States schemes, the bill extends to the kidnapping of children. The bill does not, however, seek to cover complicated custody and access matters that are better resolved through the Family Court. Registration in those cases will not help the children, their family, or the police. Accordingly, the bill excludes kidnappings when the kidnapper has had a previous care relationship with the child. Those who attempt, conspire or incite the commission of a registrable offence will also be required to register.
I will now outline one of the most important provisions of the bill. The registration provisions will extend to offences committed outside New South Wales that, if committed in New South Wales, would be a registrable offence. Research has shown that paedophiles are often highly mobile. The New South Wales scheme will be compromised if offenders from other jurisdiction who move into New South Wales cannot be registered. This will also allow the registration of New South Wales residents who commit registrable offences whilst in other jurisdictions—for example, child sex tourism offences under the Commonwealth Crimes Act. I will now explain the definition of "registrable person". Most persons who are found guilty of registrable offences will be registrable persons, and therefore subject to the provisions of the bill. However, there are some exceptions.
A person will not be required to register if their conviction has been quashed or set aside by a court. Also, there will be exceptional cases when a registrable offence has been proved, but the court dismisses the charge under section 10 of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999. The court has made a clear decision that persons in this category do not pose a significant risk to child safety. The bill will also exclude first time class 2 offenders who receive a fine or unsupervised good behaviour bond. As these offenders are less serious than class 1 offenders, there is no demonstration of actual recidivism, and the court is satisfied that such offenders are not of sufficient risk to the community to warrant any supervision after sentencing.
The bill also recognises that juvenile child sex offenders should be treated differently to adults. This is consistent with the approach taken in the United Kingdom, and by other registration schemes. The bill also requires the registration of persons who are still under some form of correctional or parole supervision at the time the legislation commences. The judicial and correctional systems recognise these "existing controlled persons" still pose a risk.
Division 1 of part 2 of the bill establishes mechanisms by which registrable persons, and agencies responsible for supervising them, are made aware of the obligations of those persons to report changes in relevant personal information to police. The division provides for three levels of offender notification: first, the courts, second, the supervising agency—generally the Department of Corrective Services, the Department of Juvenile Justice, or New South Wales Health—and, third, the New South Wales Police Service. Those bodies will keep a record that they have notified the offender of their reporting obligations. Clause 9 details the relevant personal information that registrable persons must provide to police. If registrable offenders fail to provide this information accurately or within the prescribed period they can gaoled for up to two years and/or fined $11,000.
Registrable persons must advise police of their name and any other names by which they have previously been known. This is consistent with a number of United States registration schemes, and recognises that persons with a criminal history frequently operate under assumed names, or change their name by deed poll, to avoid police or community attention. Registrable persons must also provide information on places they regularly reside or, when they are transient, the localities in which they are generally found. This allows police to better monitor such offenders and investigate offences in areas near where the offender lives.
Registrable persons must also provide information on where they work, the name of their employer, and the nature of their employment. The bill also requires registrable persons to provide information on the make, model, colour and registration number of any vehicle they own or regularly drive. This reflects United States research that found that many child sex offenders offend in or from their vehicles. Clause 10 specifies when registration information is to be provided. Registrable persons are required to register within 28 days of sentencing or release into the community, whichever is later. Offenders entering New South Wales from other jurisdictions will also have 28 days to register. Registrable persons who are under some form of correctional supervision at the time of commencement will have 90 days from the time of commencement to register. Subsequent changes of relevant personal information must be reported within 14 days.
Clause 11 corrects a defect in the United Kingdom scheme identified by British police. In the United Kingdom offenders who are charged for failure to report claim they have only just returned to the jurisdiction and are therefore not required to report for a number of days. It is often difficult to verify the truth of this. In order to prevent this excuse, registrable persons must inform police of absences from New South Wales before they go. As a number of offenders will live in border regions, or will travel interstate for short periods, only intended interstate absences of 28 days or more must be notified. All overseas trips must be reported, irrespective of length. This will also assist in the investigation of child sex tourism offences.
Registration information is to be provided personally to a police station in the offender’s locality. This will ensure local police are made aware of the offender’s presence in their community, better convey to the offender that police are aware of them, ensure registration information is correctly provided and reduce disputes as to whether information was or was not provided. Registration information may only be received by sworn police officers, given the sensitivity of that information. Police will provide an acknowledgment of registration so the offender can prove he complied with his obligations.
Clause 12 contains special reporting provisions for children and persons with a disability. Clause 13 contains modified reporting provisions for registrable persons who are, or have been, protected witnesses under the witness protection program. Consistent with the Witness Protection Act 1995, the Ombudsman is given a specific review role in this area. Clause 14 sets out the length of time a registrable person is required to report to police. The registration period runs from sentencing or release into the community, whichever is later. Class 2 offenders have a base registration period of eight years for a single offence, and class 1 offenders have a 10-year period. When repeat offending is demonstrated to a level of criminal proof, the registration period will be extended by 150 per cent. This approach is consistent with a number of registration schemes in the United States.
An offender on the register for a class 1 offence who subsequently commits another such offence will be registered for life. Clause 16 provides that this may be appealed to the administrative decisions tribunal after 15 years, in the same manner as the application of the Child Protection (Prohibited Employment) Act may be appealed. The tribunal is only to order an exemption from lifetime registration if it is satisfied that the offender does not pose a risk to child safety. The extended and lifetime registration provisions are key components of the bill. They recognise that offenders who have demonstrated recidivist behaviour pose a greater risk to child safety and should be monitored for longer.
Clause 14 also provides that the reporting period cannot be less than a period of licence or parole. This means that extreme high-risk offenders released on lifetime parole under truth in sentencing legislation, such as Mr Lewthwaite, will be registered for life with no appeal. Clause 14 also recognises the differences between juvenile and adult sex offending. It provides that registration periods for juveniles are halved and juveniles cannot be registered for life. Clause 15 provides that a person does not have to register whilst outside New South Wales. It also stops the clock on registration periods when a registrable person is placed in full-time custody.
Division 4 of part 2 requires the Commissioner of Police to establish and maintain a register of offenders, on which relevant information will be stored. This will be provided for on a secure part of the Police Service’s computer operated police system. In order to ensure that police exercise their powers appropriately, the Act will be scrutinised by the Ombudsman in its first two years of operation. The bill provides the Ombudsman with wide powers to investigate any aspect of the registration system. The Ombudsman will provide the Minister with a report on the registration scheme as soon as possible after the two-year monitoring phase.
Schedule 1 to the bill provides for the cognate amendment of the Child Protection (Prohibited Employment) Act and the Commission for Children and Young People Act. Those amendments enable a person’s placement on the register to be considered in employment screening and prohibit a person from working in child-related employment. The provisions of schedule 1 ensure that the registration scheme fits seamlessly with other legislation applying to child sex offenders released into the community. The Megan’s Law approach adopted in the United States of America highlights the problems associated with community notification. A number of American States are now moving away from community notification.
In some parts of the world local community groups may be given details on child sex offenders who live in their areas. Once information on child sex offenders is released to a small number of people it is difficult to prevent it being spread throughout the community. This is particularly the case in small or isolated communities. Available research suggests community notification does not reduce recidivism amongst child sex offenders. Indeed, there are strong concerns that community notification may increase the risks of recidivism, thereby exposing children to additional danger.
The case of Sydney Cooke, a high-profile sex offender in the United Kingdom, highlighted the dangers of vigilantism that may arise from community notification. The police station where Mr Cooke was believed to be hiding for protection was surrounded by a mob of rioters for two days. Over 50 police officers were injured in this incident. Vigilantism is not only a danger to child sex offenders, people mistaken for child sex offenders, and members of the public who are caught up in lawless behaviour; it is also a danger to children as it simply drives paedophiles underground. Community notification reduces compliance with registration schemes as child sex offenders will avoid registering if they believe information about them will be made public.
Superintendent Chris Gould, who is responsible for the child sex offender register in the United Kingdom, recently visited New South Wales to advise Commissioner Ryan and other senior police on child sex offender registration and notification issues. He advised that paedophiles will simply run the risk of being prosecuted for failure to register and move and change their names without notifying police if they are threatened with community notification. He advises that compliance with registration is less than 10 per cent in some areas of the United States of America, which contrasts with the 97 per cent compliance rate in the United Kingdom. Community notification not only means the community loses track of child sex offenders; it means police also lose track of them. The cost to police of tracking them down is enormous. The cost to child safety is even greater.
Community notification also makes offenders move more frequently, destabilising their lives and making it less likely for them to be rehabilitated. Victims groups, such as VOCAL, have previously expressed concern that community notification may cause stress to the offender which leads to his reoffending. Community notification is likely to create a false sense of security in the community, with the community focusing on the dangers posed by a specific offender, rather than the dangers posed by other offenders in the area of whom the community are unaware. The vigilance of children and their families is best maintained if they are educated about the dangers of general situations, such as getting into a car with a stranger.
The recent public debate about CRIMENET, the private Internet service that posts criminal record information on the web, also highlights the dangers of publicly releasing child sex offender information. That release may be used to argue that a trial should be aborted, or it may be pleaded as a mitigating factor in respect of the commission of an offence. Community notification should not be allowed to be used to get child sex offenders off the hook or to receive more lenient sentences. One of the greatest drawbacks of community notification is that it may cause further harm to a victim of abuse. It is a sad fact that much of the child abuse in our society is committed within the family unit—the public identification of an offender may also identify the victim, causing additional humiliation and hurt.
Victims groups such as VOCAL oppose community notification for all of the above reasons. They, like this Government, want a scheme that will work This will only work if convicted child sex offenders register. It is bad for victims, bad for offenders, bad for the community and bad for law enforcement and child protection agencies. The Government has put forward a bill that offers significant additional protection to children. It has done so after conducting extensive research into paedophile offending and registration schemes in other jurisdictions. I commend this bill to the House.