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Judge slams 'hopeless' jailing of sex offenders together

A Melbourne judge has described as ‘‘hopeless’’ the jailing of sex offenders together in a Victorian country prison.
Judge Liz Gaynor said it was a ‘‘hopeless situation for the protection of the community ... particularly children’’.
The County Court judge made the comments during a hearing on Tuesday for Brett Anthony Chatterton, 37, who pleaded guilty to child sex offences and related charges.
She suspected that after she sentenced Chatterton he would be ‘‘clumped together’’ in protection with similar offenders in Ararat.
The Hopkins Correctional Centre, which has a high number of sex offenders, and the nearby Corella Place, a facility for child sex offenders and rapists deemed too risky to be released despite having served their sentences, are both in the west Victorian town.
Judge Gaynor said in questioning a psychologist who assessed Chatterton that it was an ‘‘appalling situation’’ to have like-minded offenders who interact together in prison and who are then released.
Defence barrister Leighton Gwynn told her it was his client’s ‘‘greatest frustration’’ that he had always been interested in treatment for the issues behind his offending but that despite Chatterton’s repeated requests, he had not undertaken any sex offender programs in jail for previous offending.
Chatterton was jailed by Judge Wendy Wilmoth in July 2011 after pleading guilty to offences that included grooming, transmitting child pornography and possessing it.
He was jailed for 14 months but to be released after serving three months, when he was then to be of good behaviour for two years and undergo a two-year community-based order.
Conditions of his release included that he do 200 hours of unpaid community work and undergo treatment and assessment.
Chatterton was also placed on the sex offenders register with reporting conditions for life.
The court heard on Tuesday that he was released from prison in October 2011 and breached his court orders by offending just months later when he transmitted an indecent communication to a person under 16.
Prosecutor Louisa Dipiertrantonio highlighted that under the Sex Offenders Registration act Chatterton was in part required, on his release, not to contact any young people and provide police with telephone information.
She said psychologist Matthew Barth – who told Judge Gaynor he regarded Chatterton as presenting a high risk of reoffending – had agreed Chatterton had blatantly breached his conditions under the act.
Ms Dipiertrantonio detailed numerous occasions when Chatterton committed acts of sexual penetration with two boys under the age of 16 between February and September last year.
She said contact was made via websites and chat rooms and in some instances the victims – none of whom made impact statements for the court hearing – accepted money from Chatterton.
He told police after his arrest that he was bored, depressed and ‘‘just lonely’’ at home.
Commonwealth prosecutor Krista Breckweg summarised Chatterton’s breach of Judge Wilmoth’s order.
Mr Gwynn conceded his client’s offences called for an immediate jail term.
He said Chatterton, who had the ‘‘invaluable’’ support of his parents, was keen to start treatment, but that not having had any, the matters of insight, remorse and victim empathy ‘‘are in their infancy’’.
Judge Gaynor said she was aware of the ‘‘unfortunate delays’’ in and outside prisons for such programs and the accompanying waiting lists.
Mr Gwynn said there was no money ‘‘for what this man needs and the community needs’’, which was for him to be treated.
There was a ‘‘government gap in the system’’ for funds that were required for something other than a ‘‘law and order campaign’’, he said, and the problem would get worse unless there was a cash injection.
Judge Gaynor commented that sex offender programs were ‘‘absolutely crucial’’ for the successful rehabilitation of offenders.
‘‘This goes to the protection of the community as a whole,’’ said the judge, who added that delays in programs ‘‘seem to be getting longer and longer’’ and would increase given the expected outcomes from the large numbers of people approaching Victoria’s centres against sexual assault.
Ms Dipiertrantonio said Chatterton’s offending had increased from his first crimes of chatting to more graphic chats, grooming, procuring and then meeting his victims.
Chatterton was remanded to appear again next month.

www.theage.com.au (17-9-2013)
Steve Butcher

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