Call for Sarah’s Law
Child protection group wants police disclosure powers reform
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.