06 November 2011

WA Offender Register

The Western Australia Police Minister has announced plans for establishment of an online publicly-accessible sex offender register in the state, to be given effect through enactment of the Community Protection (Offender Reporting) Amendment Bill (No 2) 2011 (WA).

The expectation is that people will be able to access information about sex offenders through a website that features three levels of disclosure about offenders -
Tier 1: Is intended to notify the public about at large reportable sex offenders who have gone underground. Information will be openly available to the public on the website and this information will contain details about these offenders, such as photograph, date of birth, physical description, name and known aliases. It
applies to Reportable offenders who are non-compliant with their reporting obligations and whose whereabouts are unknown to WA Police.

Tier 2: Is intended to make the public aware of repeat or highly dangerous sex offenders in their general locality. A person can make a request through the website and be provided with the photo(s) of any high risk sex offenders living in their postcode and adjoining postcodes. It applies to offenders who:
• are subject to dangerous sexual offender supervision orders (unless the court making the order specifically states publication should not occur)
• commit a further sex offence while already subject to reporting requirements
• have such a serious criminal conviction that the Commissioner of Police and Police Minister agree they present a serious risk to the safety of the public which warrants the public being able to access their photo on the website.
The commissioner will have discretion to decide whether to publish eligible offenders’ photographs on the website. Information may be restricted due to court orders or to avoid identifying victims. Offenders will receive 21 days notice that their image and locality is to be made available on the website and may lodge an objection with the commissioner. People who wish to access this information from the website must submit proof of their identity and their locality before accessing this information and must acknowledge that the information that becomes available will not be misused.

Tier 3: Is intended to allow parents and guardians only to determine if a person with direct access to their children and whom they may have concerns in relation to is a reportable offender. It applies to any reportable offender. A parent or guardian of any child can make a request through the website regarding a specific person with regular unsupervised contact with their child. Applicants must provide their full details, the identity of the person of interest and the level of contact that person has with the child. Police will assess the request and determine if it is genuine. The Commissioner of Police will always retain discretion to determine whether disclosure should occur.

If the person with access to the child is a reportable offender, the Sex Offender Management Squad of WA Police will contact the parent/guardian directly to advise them of this fact, and may attend the premises if the offender is in breach of his reporting obligations by being in contact with the child.
The media release offers the standard flannel -
safeguards, including records of persons accessing the website, and strict penalties if information was misused, would be in place to ensure the register was used only to improve the safety of the community.

Mr Porter said the register would provide the appropriate levels of publication of the most serious offenders.

“The State Government must balance competing considerations when deciding what is best for community safety,” the Attorney General said

“What we have delivered is a measured approach to an issue of considerable concern to the community where the key concern is giving parents fair and reasonable access to information that will enhance their ability to protect their children.

“Ultimately this Government trusts the WA public to behave responsibly when given access to the information which will help to keep children safe.”

Child Protection Minister Robyn McSweeney said child sex offenders did immeasurable damage to vulnerable children and the State Government had a responsibility to protect children from paedophiles.

“These laws will allow parents and others who are suspicious about a person involved in their child’s life or vicinity to check if they have been a convicted sex offender,” Mrs McSweeney said.
Irrespective of questions about the appropriateness of public registers, we might wonder about the desirability of leaving discretion in the hands of the Police Commissioner or Minister.