Call for Sarah’s Law

Child pro­tec­tion group wants po­lice dis­clo­sure pow­ers re­form

The Chronicle - - Nation -

CHILD pro­tec­tion group Brave­hearts is call­ing for Aus­tralia to adopt UK leg­is­la­tion to al­low po­lice greater lev­els of dis­clo­sure to pro­tect against child sex 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 child sex of­fences or for any se­ri­ous vi­o­lent of­fences, 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 and cov­ers an of­fend­ers’ life­time.

In Aus­tralia, a child sex of­fender is listed on the con­fi­den­tial na­tional child sex of­fend­ers’ regis­ter for a pe­riod of time spec­i­fied by the courts, the min­i­mum of which is five to eight years. Po­lice can­not dis­close in­for­ma­tion to par­ents or car­ers.

Brave­hearts’ chair and 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 last week’s Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment pro­posal for an on­line na­tional pub­lic child sex of­fender regis­ter — which would see of­fend­ers’ names pub­lished on a web­site along with their date of birth, photo, the na­ture of of­fence and their gen­eral lo­ca­tion, such as post­code — was a “po­lit­i­cal stunt”.

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.

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