A high-profile expert on the behavioural patterns of paedophiles has questioned the value of Senator Derryn Hinch’s proposal of a public register for sex offenders.
The Victorian senator has said he intends to put forward a motion for a Senate committee hearing on a public sex offenders register in the autumn session of Parliament.
Senator Hinch wants a national register to enable members of the public to locate convicted sex offenders in place by the time his Senate term concludes in 2019.
But TV personality and University of New England criminologist Xanthe Mallett said a register like Senator Hinch’s was unlikely to make the community safer.
“Politicians often pay lip service to the problem of sex offending, by promoting largely ineffective measures like public registers and longer sentences,” Dr Mallett said.
“A public register may whip up fear and encourage vigilantism.”
All Australian states and territories maintain a register of convicted sex offenders, which monitors their whereabouts after their release from prison.
But they are generally strictly controlled by police and not accessible to members of the public.
Senator Hinch would like to see Australia adopt the model employed in American states like California and Texas, where anyone can go on to a website and find the names, addresses and photos of convicted sex offenders living in their area.
He said he was impressed by an app he used while in Texas that told him exactly where a nearby offender was located.
“It just means that if your kid’s ball goes over the fence, you didn’t chase it, and at Halloween for ‘trick or treat’ you knew to stay away from the place,” he said.
“It hasn’t [encouraged vigilantism] to any degree in the United States, and they’ve had it for 20 years.”
Paedophiles different to sex offenders: expert
A paedophile is defined as someone who is attracted to pre-pubescent children, while a sex offender is someone guilty of a sexual offence against a child.
Dr Mallett said she would support law reform that provided limited access to certain information on convicted sex offenders.
She said child protection caseworkers in particular should be empowered to share information when a child’s safety may be at risk.