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Sex Fiends Shielded

VICTORIA'S justice system is shielding the state's most serious sex offenders, a Sunday Herald Sun investigation has found.
Names of sex fiends are often removed from court lists, hampering public and media scrutiny of decisions.
Up to $400,000 in taxpayers' funds has been spent by the Justice Department in the past few months, partly to keep secret the names and whereabouts of offenders.
The revelations come as the Bracks Government has ruled out a law -- being tested in Britain -- that enables parents to check if pedophiles are in their neighbourhood.
And a survey has found Victorians overwhelmingly want to know if there are sex offenders in their area, while most want pedophiles named.
Under the Justice Department support-system for sex predators, fiends receive legal aid to fight supervision orders and fund bids to keep their identities secret.
In some cases, legal teams including $400-an-hour Queen's counsels are being hired to represent sex offenders.
Sex predators considered dangerous are placed under strict supervision orders after their parole has ended. But the Sunday Herald Sun has found those offenders' names are not appearing on court lists.
The hearings for the orders -- applying such restrictions as bans on loitering at schools -- are public, but with no listings the victims are unaware of the applications.
The Government yesterday ruled out considering the law being tested in Britain that enables parents to check if pedophiles are in their neighbourhood.
A Sunday Herald Sun survey found 74 per cent of Victorians would like to see such a law introduced, while 60 per cent wanted offenders named and subject to full public scrutiny.
The survey also found 64 per cent believed it was wrong for courts not to publish the names of sex offenders in court lists.
The groundswell for reform is supported by legal and child abuse experts.
Leading Queen's Counsel David Galbally said serial sex offenders had lost the right to privacy because of their repeated crimes.
Ballarat University senior research fellow Dr Caroline Taylor, an expert on sexual abuse, said fears that naming offenders would lead to vigilante attacks had proved unfounded in the US.
A Justice Department spokeswoman said she could not contact the staff involved in the examples of court list omissions, but that the department would follow up these cases with the judges involved.

Sunday Herald Sun (15-4-2007)
Sue Hewitt/ Chris Tinkler

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