14 Aug 2015

Sex offender register's net may widen

11:20 am on 14 August 2015

A register tracking child sex offenders is going ahead, and the Government says it could be expanded to include every sex offender in the country.

Legislation allowing police and Corrections to oversee a register for convicted child sex offenders has been introduced to Parliament.

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley said every child sex offender would have to provide a range of information including their fingerprints, photographs, address and computer IP address.

She said the register would be closed to the public, but in some cases information could be given to concerned parents, a teacher or a caregiver.

"It would be only under very certain circumstances, but I'm sure the police would be very grateful for the issue being raised with them so they can go and check up and make sure no one is in danger," she said.

Attorney-General, Chris Finlayson said the register would breach human rights law, but Mrs Tolley said it was worth it to keep people safe.

Tina Lawson's 13-year-old daughter Jade Bayliss was killed, in 2011, by her partner Jeremy McLaughlin, who unbeknownst to her had been deported from Australia for murder.

She has campaigned for a full serious crimes register, but said this was a good first step.

"Maybe it might make these people think twice about hurting or abusing a child," she said.

"Maybe it might make them think they don't want to be on a register for the rest of their life and wherever they go people will know what they've done - I think this needs to be done."

She said a register tracking sex offenders was the next logical step - something Anne Tolley said the Government would look at.

"After four years there is a review built into the bill and that's probably the opportunity," she said.

"At the time it's reviewed we'll look at if it's working well and whether we need to extend it."

Sensible Sentencing Trust's founder Garth McVicar wants the public to have more information.

"We want a publicly available sex offenders register so we know who lives amongst us and the dangers they pose," he said.

But Kim Workman of the lobby group Rethinking Crime and Punishment, said that would lead to vigilantism.

He said the Government was wasting its money on the register and there were better ways to keep people safe.

"If I was going to spend a million bucks, I wouldn't be spending it on a register but sex offender treatment and rehabilitation," he said.

Spokesperson for the Sensible Sentencing Trust, Garth McVicar, said it was a good start, but it needed to go further.

He said publicly available sex offender registers were working well in Australia and the United States.

Mr McVicar said children's safety must be paramount.

Only a small team of police and corrections staff would have access to the register.

Ms Tolley said any officer or staff member who leaked information would be severely punished.

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