Written on the 19 March 2014

AFTER 10 years, the protracted investigation into the disappearance and murder of Sunshine Coast teenager Daniel Morcombe has come to a close.

When information surfaced that the man found guilty of the crimes, Brett Peter Cowan, had previously served jail time for child sex offences, the attention of the community quickly turned to the justice system and its perceived failings in protecting the community from a known repeat sex offender.

Calls quickly resurfaced for longer sentences for dangerous sex offenders, as well as the release of a national sex offender registry.
Child protection advocate Bravehearts has confirmed its position that the first response should always be the continued detention of dangerous sex offenders.

However, dismayed by a perceived lack of will on behalf of the courts to continually detain offenders, Bravehearts CEO and founder Hetty Johston has now announced a limited sex offender register may be necessary for community safety.

While the organisation doesn’t advocate for broad community notification of paedophiles, Johnston says the community needs to be given a ‘fighting chance’.

“It is our position that dangerous sex offenders should not be released back in to the community until such time as they are assessed as low risk and that that risk can be managed,” says Johnston.

“We have dangerous prisoners (sexual offenders) legislation across the nation in place now that can achieve this.

“Bravehearts now advocates the duplication nationally of the Western Australian legalisation which provides for the public disclosure of limited information relating to released, adult, repeat child sex offenders, specifically the publication of name, up-to-date photograph, date of birth, and date of release," Johnston says.

"While the public disclosure of sex offender’s information presents as an appealing kneejerk response to the risk released offenders pose to the community, Bravehearts does not support widespread community notification of paedophiles.” 

Based on the problematic experience of ‘Megan’s Law’ in the US, Bravehearts is calling for registration legislation to only allow for restricted notification.

The main arguments against establishing a public register include inadvertently revealing the name of the victim; branding innocent members of the offender’s family; victimisation of innocent individuals whose name or appearance could be  confused with those of an offender; community anger or lawlessness; released paedophiles becoming likely to register; and registered paedophiles becoming more likely to ‘disappear’.






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