Sex of­fend­ers still a secret

New laws gazump free­dom of in­for­ma­tion

Herald Sun - - NEWS - MARK BUT­TLER AND MATT JOHN­STON mark.but­tler@news.com.au

THE pub­lic re­mains in the dark about which Vic­to­rian sub­urbs con­tain our most dan­ger­ous sex of­fend­ers, be­cause new laws gov­ern­ing them gazump the Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act.

Leg­is­la­tion that came into ef­fect last month set up a new Post Sen­tence Author­ity that man­ages se­ri­ous sex and vi­o­lent of­fend­ers.

In­cluded in the laws are pro­vi­sions that block the re­lease of any doc­u­ments by that author­ity, mean­ing the De­part­ment of Jus­tice can refuse to dis­close in­for­ma­tion.

The An­drews Gov­ern­ment says sim­i­lar FOI Act ex­emp­tions were in place un­der the previous Adult Pa­role Board scheme, but the state Op­po­si­tion says its plan to cre­ate a new Sex Of­fend­ers Reg­is­ter would en­able Vic­to­ri­ans to check if sex pests live in their neigh­bour­hood.

The sec­tion of the new Se­ri­ous Of­fend­ers Act that af­fects the re­lease of in­for­ma­tion came as the Her­ald Sun fought a long FOI bat­tle to know where sex of­fend­ers are liv­ing af­ter be­ing re­leased from jail.

This news­pa­per first ap­plied to Vic­to­ria Po­lice and the De­part­ment of Jus­tice last year and has lodged ap­peals through the Of­fice of the Vic­to­rian In­for­ma­tion Com­mis­sioner. The Her­ald Sun did not seek to iden­tify sex of­fend­ers or their pre­cise lo­ca­tion.

Op­po­si­tion po­lice, cor­rec- tions and com­mu­nity safety spokesman Ed­ward O’Dono­hue said a Coali­tion plan to cre­ate a search­able data­base would see more in­for­ma­tion re­leased.

The pol­icy, re­vealed ear­lier this year, would al­low par­ents to ap­ply to ob­tain pho­tos of high-risk sex of­fend­ers liv­ing in their area — but they would be banned from shar­ing them widely.

“If it’s a choice be­tween pro­tect­ing the feel­ings of con­victed vi­o­lent sex of­fend­ers or pro­tect­ing in­no­cent Vic­to­ri­ans, we will pick the side of pro­tect­ing in­no­cent Vic­to­ri­ans,” Mr O’Dono­hue said.

But a gov­ern­ment spokes­woman said the ex­panded post-sen­tence scheme for sex of­fend­ers had been de­signed to “keep Vic­to­ri­ans safe” and the pri­or­ity was to “en­sure of­fend­ers are strictly man­aged in line with con­di­tions of their or­der”.

“Ex­emp­tions un­der the Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act re­lat­ing to the post-sen­tence scheme are con­sis­tent with ex­emp­tions to the scheme un­der the man­age­ment of the Adult Pa­role Board and the previous Lib­eral gov­ern­ment,” she said.

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