Sex offenders still a secret
New laws gazump freedom of information
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.