Page 2829 - Week 09 - Thursday, 13 August 2015

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This application is a matter for the defence at sentencing and requires the court to turn its mind to a set of considerations different to those outlined in the Crimes (Sentencing) Act 2005. These considerations include the severity of the offence and seriousness of the surrounding circumstances, the age of the person at the time of the offence, the level of harm to the victim and the community, attempts at rehabilitation, whether the person poses a risk to the lives or sexual safety of one or more people in the community and any other circumstances that the court considers relevant.

Turning to public notices, this fifth category of amendments gives the Chief Police Officer or the Deputy Chief Police Officer the power to issue a public notice about a registered offender, in limited circumstances, where they believe on reasonable grounds that there may be a risk to the lives or sexual safety of one or more people or of the community in general. The child sex offenders act currently prohibits ACT Policing or any other agency releasing information from the register as it is considered to be personal information for the purposes of the registration scheme. The purpose of this category of amendments is to ensure that ACT Policing can effectively monitor registrable offender activities and ensure that a registrable offender who is not meeting their reporting obligations is located, maintaining the safety of children and the community.

The amendments provide an appropriate balance between the need for police to protect the community while still necessarily protecting the identity and security of registrable offenders. This public notice would state that the person is required by police to answer questions. The power limits the offender’s human rights to the least extent possible by also requiring that before a notice is published police must be satisfied that the offender has failed to comply with reporting requirements, cannot be located and that the applicant believes on reasonable grounds that publication of the notice will reduce that risk. The ACT government does not support, and will not introduce, laws to create a public sex offender register.

The effectiveness of the available tools to monitor sex offenders has recently been the subject of ongoing national discussion. At the Law, Crime and Community Safety Council meeting in October last year ministers agreed not to support a proposal to publish a national public register including the personal details of all convicted sex offenders. This is because available empirical evidence demonstrates that public registers are largely ineffective to prevent child sex offences and other sex offences. Ministers decided instead to continue to monitor evidence on the efficacy of schemes involving limited disclosure of sex offenders’ details, such as those operating in South Australia and Western Australia, with a view to discussing that evidence at a later date.

Turning to general amendments, the category of general amendments further strengthens ACT Policing’s ability to monitor registered child sex offenders and to ensure the safety of children and the community. The general amendments will create administrative efficiencies for ACT Policing, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the courts in carrying out their functions under the act.

These amendments include altering the fault element for failure to report annually from intention to recklessness and strict liability, the introduction of provisions to provide that a police officer may order that photographs be taken of a registered

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