Drive to shield kids

Po­lice should be able to warn pub­lic

Herald Sun - - NEWS - HERALDSUN.COM.AU TUES­DAY, JAN­UARY 15, 2019 AMELIA SAW [email protected]

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.

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