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Plea To Protect Kids

A VEIL of secrecy protecting the state's worst child-sex offenders was condemned yesterday by victims and a leading child welfare group.
A court-imposed ban on publication of the names or whereabouts of pedophiles released under new legislation designed to protect children also prompted calls for a change to the law.
The name of the second pedophile released on an extended supervision order under the new Act was suppressed this week despite evidence he was incurable and highly likely to re-offend.
Two people -- one of the man's most recent victims, and the head of a leading child abuse counselling and advocacy group -- said yesterday the decision failed to take proper account of community protection.
Both called on the Government to change the law to enable courts to extend the sentences of child-sex offenders considered highly likely to re-offend, rather than extend parole conditions.
The Serious Sex Offenders Monitoring Act, which became law on July 1, allows a judge to place an offender on an extended supervision order for up to 15 years.
Australian Childhood Foundation chief executive, Dr Joe Tucci, said lack of transparency and poor decision-making on placing offenders was eroding public confidence.
"The community is right to feel a lack of confidence in the system," he said.
He said there should be more consultation -- not less -- with communities where released offenders were to be located.
"I'd like GPs, childcare centres, schools, health services, police and probation officers to all know there's a sex offender moving into the area.
"Unless they prepare local residents and tell them that someone is going to be moving in, and unless they're fully transparent, you're not going to be able to put these people anywhere".
Dr Tucci said the poor choice of accommodation for notorious pedophile Brian Jones, better known as Mr Baldy, had emphasised the problems created by secrecy.
"Keeping it secret is also counter-productive to the sex offender, because once people do find out where they are there is a huge reaction, which does cause the sort of stress the authorities are concerned about," he said.
County Court Chief Judge Michael Rozenes said on Wednesday he banned publication of the second offender's name because of evidence that increased stress caused by publicity could increase the chances of him re-offending.
A woman who confronted the man after he was last released from jail told the Herald Sun she believed people could not protect themselves if they did not know who pedophiles were or where they were.
She found the man peeping through her windows at night three times in the week after he was released in 2002.
"All the protection seems to be directed at him, not the community," she said yesterday.
"If they (pedophiles) can't be accountable for themselves, the Government and the legislators have to be accountable for them.
"They're giving these people the benefit of the doubt at the cost of a child's life -- or many children."
She said then the man had been placed in a Housing Ministry flat in her street, close to a school, swimming pool, tennis courts and skate park in a small country town.
"What really made me angry was that he could look straight out the front window at the tennis courts where the junior girls were playing in their little dresses.
"If you'd wanted to pick a worse place to put someone like that you couldn't have," she said.
The man, now 62, had 21 scrapbooks of newspaper clippings depicting young children when he was arrested.
A court was told he had prior convictions for sex offences dating back to the 1970s and had been in and out of jail for 30 years.
This week's hearing was told the man confessed he still fantasised about children despite treatment to reduce arousal.
At least a dozen of the most high-risk child-sex offenders are expected to be the subject of applications for extended supervision orders.

Herald Sun (19-8-2005)
Geoff Wilkinson

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