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Moves to change laws to give parents access to dangerous sex-offenders' information

Queenslanders could be emailed photos of dangerous sex offenders who live nearby under moves being considered by the State Government.
And for the first time, parents may be able to stay a step ahead of predators by obtaining a background check of a person who has regular contact with their children.
Police Minister Jack Dempsey said he was considering introducing similar laws to Western Australia, which allowed residents to ask and receive information about dangerous sex offenders.
``One of the most abhorrent crimes in the community are those of a sexual nature against children and this Government makes no apologies for putting the rights of the victim and their family well before those of the offender,'' Mr Dempsey told The Courier-Mail.
``Since coming to Government we have introduced tough penalties for sex offences against children including 20-years nonparole for repeat offenders.
``I am also watching with interest Western Australia's recent implementation of a web-based means of providing community stakeholders with information about dangerous sex offenders.''
In WA, people must enter a driver's licence or an address to access information about a sex offender living in their suburb and surrounds. The details - a photo and the suburb the sex offender is living in - are emailed to the person who requested the information. Those who misuse information face 10 years' jail.
WA residents can also ask police to ask for the background of a person having regular contact with their child. A parent or guardian wanting the information must make a written application and the request is assessed by police.
Bravehearts executive director Hetty Johnston said the measure would be a win for single mothers, who were often targeted by pedophiles.
If Queensland introduced the laws, it would be only the second state in Australia to do so, however, the UK and states in the US have similar legislation.
Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers said he supported the laws.
``A searchable public register of pedophiles and sex offenders akin to similar Megan's Law registers in other jurisdictions makes sense,'' Mr Leavers said.
``While we would never want to condone any type of vigilantism, as the father of a nine-year-old boy, I would want to know if a pedophile moved in next door to me or in my neighbourhood.
``Too often I think we get hung up on the rights of pedophiles and sex offenders, and I think we need to put the rights of parents and children first, by Government providing the information families need to assist in ensuring their safety.
``Why should the Government be the only ones who know where pedophiles and sex offenders live?
``I think it is common sense for the Government to make this information known to the public."
Queensland Council for Civil Liberties vice-president Terry O'Gorman labelled WA's laws a gimmick and warned they could lead to offenders reoffending ``It doesn't do anything to protect the public,'' Mr O'Gorman said.
``Overwhelmingly, the percentage of sex offending occurs within the family or the extended family.''
Ms Johnston agreed that emailing photos and addresses of sex offenders would not work, and that it ``would probably drive them underground''.
But she said allowing families to access the details of an adult spending a lot of time with a child would be beneficial.
``I think that's really good. (Pedophiles) relationship hop, going from one single woman to another single woman,'' Ms Johnson said.
``She falls in love with him but he's really after her children.''
She said dangerous sex offenders should not be released into the community but if they were the Government should give the public a fighting chance.
As of yesterday, there were 129 offenders subject to orders under the Dangerous Prisoners (Sexual Offenders) Act. Of those, 89 were being managed in the community. Eighty of them are forced to wear ankle bracelets monitored by GPS tracking.
Three are in custody with supervision orders pending release, 17 offenders are on continuing detention requiring review and 20 offenders are on interim continuing detention orders for contravention.
It's understood that the Government is only considering releasing the details of dangerous sex offenders and not the 4000 sex offenders who are living in Queensland and listed on the Australian National Child Offender Register.

Western Australia: The Community Protection website

  • There are three tiers. The first gives information about missing offenders or those who have lied to police. It provides photos and personal details.
  • Tier 2 allows for a local search for dangerous and high-risk offenders. It provides photos of certain offenders that live within the same suburb and adjoining suburbs of the person asking for the information. A drivers licence or WA address is needed to access the information, which is emailed to an address provided.
  • Tier 3 allows parents or guardians of a child to ask police whether a specific person, who has regular unsupervised contact with their child or children, is a reportable offender.

How other systems work
California - Megan's Law

  • A person can search for a sex offender by name, or those living near a city, park or school.
  • Anyone can look at the information on its Justice website, which includes a photo
  • The public has been able to view information on sex offenders since 1994. Prior, the information was available by visiting police stations and sheriff offices or by calling a 900 toll-free number
  • The Department of Justice is required by law to score the risk of eligible sex offenders.

UK - Sarah's Law

  • The Child Sex Offenders Disclosure Scheme enables parents, guardians and third parties to ask whether a person who has access to a child,
    is a registered sex offender, or poses a risk to that child.
  • If the individual has convictions for sexual offences against children or poses a risk of causing harm then police can choose to disclose the information.
  • The information can be accessed from police stations.

The Courier-Mail (25-6-2013)
Renee Viellaris

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