A sex offender is released from jail. He’s served his time. And he’s moved into a house in your suburb. Does he have a right to privacy? Or do you have the right to know that someone who has been convicted of a sex crime is living in your neighbourhood?
For the first time, the names and photographs of some the state’s worst sexual offenders – including serial pedophiles - are now available publicly, thanks to an online registry that went live in WA yesterday.
The site is called Community Protection Western Australia and is designed to help parents keep their children safe. But there’s concern from legal groups that the site could lead to cases of mistaken identity and incidences of people taking the law into their own hands.
There are apparently 120 people in Western Australia who are eligible to be published on the site in the near future.
It will provide information on some of the state’s most dangerous and repeat child sex offenders, including their photos, names and the suburbs in which they live, although it will not give out specific addresses.
The system is broken up into three tiers; tier one includes photos and details of offenders who police have lost track of, and their last known address.
Nine people are currently on that list.
Tier two is where members of the public can request the photograph of offenders living in their suburb and adjoining suburbs.
And, tier three will allow parents and guardians to check whether someone who has regular unsupervised contact with their child is on the register.
But while the Western Australia Government says that the site will help protect children, others are concerned about the vigilante attacks that the site might spark.
This from News Limited:
Criminal Lawyers Association of WA president Linda Black said there was already a good system in place whereby anyone working with children needed police clearances.
Ms Black said she had concerns the new website could lead to vigilantism and cases of mistaken identity.
“You get released a photograph and then you are able to hopefully find the right person, and then when you do, I’m not sure exactly what it is that the government expects you to do with the information,” she told AAP.
“My primary concern is, once people have this information, what is anticipated they will do other than try and run the bloke out of town?
“The legislation boldly claims it will help us protect our children, but I’ve read the legislation twice now and I still don’t see how.”
Bravehearts founder and child protection advocate Hetty Johnston also has her doubts. “Our research has shown that it doesn’t actually stop offenders from offending and that it provides the community with a false sense of security,” she said in an interview with the ABC.
Premier Colin Barnett rejects the criticism. “This is not trying to persecute people, it’s not trying to whip up a storm or angst in the community,” he said. “It is simply saying there is some information which is hitherto not been available to the community.”
What do you think about the site? A good idea, or a bad idea? Do you think that other states should look at introducing their own websites?