Drive to shield kids
Police should be able to warn public
CHILD protection group Bravehearts is calling for Australia to adopt a British law to allow police greater powers of public disclosure to guard against child sexual abuse.
The UK legislation, known as Sarah’s Law, allows any member of the public to ask police if a person in contact with a child has a criminal record for offences of child sex abuse, or of violence such as domestic violence, that could pose a safety risk to children.
The law allows police to disclose information confidentially to the person most able to protect the child. It lasts for an offender’s lifetime.
In Australia, a child-sex offender is listed on the confidential national child-sex offenders’ register for a period specified by a court.
Police cannot disclose information to parents or carers.
Bravehearts’ founder Hetty Johnston said Sarah’s law would be of huge benefit here.
“The research is clear: between 85 per cent and 95 per cent of children are sexually assaulted by people known, trusted or even loved by them. They are predators who have expertly manipulated and groomed the family and child with the single aim of gaining their trust and getting time alone with the children to sexually assault them.”
Bravehearts said the federal proposal for an online national public child-sex offender register, publishing on a website names, photos, general locations, and nature of offences, was a “political stunt”.
The register has also attracted criticism from criminologists and law enforcers concerned it could lead to an increase in vigilante attacks.
Sarah’s Law was enacted in Britain after eight-year-old Sarah Payne was abducted and murdered in 2000 by Roy Whiting, who already had a conviction for abducting and indecently assaulting a child.
Sources within the NSW and Victorian police forces welcomed the push.
A NSW police source said: “I had a situation recently when a mother began a relationship with a known sex offender and her kids were in the house, but privacy legislation means we can’t just go and tell that woman. We have to tell community services there may be a welfare risk to a child, and hope they intervene.
“People would be shocked at the lack of restrictions convicted sex offenders are under once they’re released.”
The source said requirements for sex offenders to stay away from schools and play areas and give notification of their address and any changes to situation that could put them in contact with children were very hard to police.