Page 2234 - Week 07 - Thursday, 23 June 2005

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . . PDF . . . .

rather than community-based. The ACT has two sex offender rehabilitation programs, one for adults and one for juveniles. In addition, probation and parole officers or youth workers supervise sex offenders while they are participating in the program. This provides an opportunity for intervention with offenders.

This leads to my second recommendation to expand the legislation to involve mechanisms for monitoring risk and triggering intervention. The legislation before us will establish a child sex offenders register that can only be used to track sex offenders. There is no capacity for risk assessment and intervention, unless the offender commits another offence, either by committing a crime or failing to fulfil reporting requirements.

This means that a known sex offender who has served a sentence and is then released into the ACT community could rent a room in a house with young children and/or participate in social activities such as a playgroup or a children’s sporting team without any risk assessment or intervention being possible. A sentencing order may require them to report where they are living, the number and ages of children in the household, and the clubs or associations they belong to. This information will be kept on the register but, and this is a big but, there is no capacity for the police to intervene if they believe the children are at risk.

I do not believe the community would find this acceptable. If we are in a position to identify where children may be at risk, then we should be in a position to respond. What action could we take? I am not advocating public disclosure of the sex offender, as occurs in some parts of the United States, nor am I suggesting that some offenders should be incarcerated indefinitely or otherwise lose all their civil rights. We could instead look at a mechanism such as the child protection prohibition orders that have been built into the Northern Territory child sex offender register legislation. This gives the court the power to make a prohibition order similar to a domestic violence order that prohibits the person from engaging in specified conduct.

In determining whether to grant the order, the court must be satisfied that the person poses a risk to the lives or sexual safety of one or more children or of children generally and that the making of the order may reduce the risk. For example, a prohibition order might be sought in circumstances where the reportable offender was a convicted paedophile who intended to become a member of an organisation or association that had child membership or child participation in its activities. There does not appear to be a comparable mechanism in the ACT, which puts us in a position of collecting information about sex offenders that we are not in any position to act upon.

My third recommendation concerns expanding the register to include adult sex crime offences. By limiting the register to child sex offences and child-related employment prohibitions, we have missed an opportunity to better respond to sex crimes against adults and to take appropriate steps to protect vulnerable groups including older people and people with a disability at a heightened risk of sexual assault.

There is sometimes a perception that sex crimes against children are predatory while those against adults are opportunistic. This is not supported by data from the international Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers which indicates that, amongst offenders who target adult women, reoffence rates range from seven per cent to 35 per cent, very similar to the 10 to 40 per cent of child offenders. In particular, there

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . . PDF . . . .