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SHARE: These sex offender laws must be changed

Canberra Mothers outraged over the sentence

Trigger warning : This post deals with a child’s sexual assault and may be distressing for some readers. 

In four-and a half years this man could be near your child.

In four-and a half years he could be near my now two-year-old daughter.

In four-and a half years this man could offend again.

But a group of Canberra Mums want to stop him.

The case has caused outrage – justifiably – amoungst Canberra residents. A serial child molester sentenced to just seven-and-a-half years in jail for the public rape of a three-year old girl.

A three-year old girl reading picture books at 1.30 in the afternoon.

Eligible for parole in four-and–a-half years.

It was September when known sex offender Shane Williams was making his way to a police station for his annual sex offender check-in – high on drugs he stopped at Canberra’s Belconnen Library to use the toilets.

The ABC report that he was looking at books when a three-year-old girl – not yet wise on stranger danger – made her way over to him and said hello.

The child’s mother was just metres away using a computer and did not initially notice that her daughter had wandered off.

When her mother looked up her world changed.

The crime scene from the Belconnen Library

Williams had asked the three-year old to sit down. He had removed her pants – and his clothing – and he was sexually assaulting her.

Her mother screamed as she found him crouched behind her daughter.

Williams ran off – but several days later police found and arrested him.

He confessed.

He was known to police – well known.

Williams had been convicted of offences against children five times in the past, and had repeatedly returned to such crimes upon release from prison.

On Wednesday in the ACT Supreme Court, prosecutor Sara Gul described the attack as despicable.

“It’s clear that he is a significant danger to the community,”

“He really is what can only be described as a chronic child molester.”

The ABC report that Williams’ lawyer James Sabharwal agreed the attack was concerning and offered his client’s only excuse that he was both drunk and high on drugs at the time.

“The only saving grace I can put to your honour is that the little girl was not required to give evidence,” Mr Sabharwal said.

Australia does not have a national sex offender registry

Chief Justice Helen Murrell said it was difficult to know if the victim would suffer any future impacts from the assault.

At the time of the rape the “chronic child molester” was on bail for bashing his neighbour.

For both the assault and the rape, Williams received a 25 per cent discount on his sentence for pleading guilty.

25% off the rape of a three-year old girl.

25% off the destruction of a family.

Yes you read that right – 25% OFF HIS SENTENCE.

You can understand the horrified reactions of the community of Canberra Mums on Facebook.

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For those of us who do not live in Canberra it could be easy to take the NIMBY approach – he’s not in my backyard this can’t affect me.

But these Mums are imploring other mothers to help them make sure it’s not in their backyard either.

The group, Canberra Mums have set up an online petition to change the laws.

Comments ranged from the angry to the appalled, to those wanting to take action now.

“OUTRAGEOUS!!!! This isn’t a boxing day sale to be offering him a discount!” wrote one.

Another: “How dare he do this to anyone’s child and how dare the judge only sentence him for this short amount of time.”

“The Supreme Court has well and truly failed this time and it’s also sad to see the first female chief minister of the Supreme Court give an absolutely ridiculous sentence like this”

Thousands of angry parents – desperate to make a change.

The petition says it will be presented to “every official and government representative in Canberra and the Federal Government” once it collects 5000 supporters.

“The laws need to be changed to better protect our children,” the petition said.

“Please sign this petition write, call, post, tweet, shout from the rooftops and tell everyone just how outrageous this sentence is.

“Please stand with us in condemning a legal system that has failed to protect our children and potentially in 4.5 years will again see other children in danger from a known serial offender.”

Over 3500 signatures have been collected already.

The petition

Late yesterday the ACT Director of Public Prosecutions Jon White said his office was considering appealing the sentence.

Acting Attorney-General Katy Gallagher told the Canberra Times that the ACT Government would respond to the petition, but emphasized sentencing was the legal system’s responsibility.

“To the greatest degree, the sentence was actually a matter for the court,” she said.

“I understand at times community response to sentences, either they support them or they don’t support them … Sometimes they think the courts are too harsh and other times they’re not hard enough.”

In Australia, Western Australia is the only state in which laws currently exist which allow residents to ask and receive information about dangerous sex offenders, through a website. The details – a photo and the suburb the sex offender is living in – are emailed to the person who requested the information.

QLD have indicated they too are considering such legislation.

Similar systems exist in both California and the UK:

California – Megan’s Law

* A person can search for a sex offender by name, or those living near a city, park or school.

* Anyone can look at the information on its Justice website, which includes a photo and

* The public has been able to view information on sex offenders since 1994. Prior, the information was available by visiting police stations and sheriff offices or by calling a 900 toll-free number

* The Department of Justice is required by law to score the risk of eligible sex offenders.

UK – Sarah’s Law

* The Child Sex Offenders Disclosure Scheme enables parents, guardians and third parties to ask whether a person who has access to a child, is a registered sex offender, or poses a risk to that child.

* If the individual has convictions for sexual offences against children or poses a risk of causing harm then police can choose to disclose the information.

* The information can be accessed from police stations.

Popular radio personality Derryn Hinch has been campaigning for a national child offender’s registry. You can find out more about his campaign here.

For one Canberra family these petitions come too late.

But the Facebook Canberra Mums feel they can make a change for others.

They beg, “this is not someone else’s problem. It is ours. All of us. Act now before it happens to your child.”

You can access the Canberra Mums petition here.

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