The Age

Child protection Changes to register New laws to identify sex offenders

Author: Rania Spooner
Date: 21/08/2014
Words: 494
Source: AGE
          Publication: The Age
Section: News
Page: 2
Police would be allowed to share the identity of a registered sex offender with the caregivers of a child they believe is at risk of sexual abuse, under a Napthine government proposal to bolster laws governing sex offenders.

Sex offenders also face new reporting obligations for when they travel, stricter time frames for notifying police of changes in their circumstances and harsher penalties of up to five years' jail for failing to meet their obligations.

Police Minister Kim Wells revealed the proposed legal amendments on Wednesday, saying they would "help stamp out the gross, depraved acts perpetrated on some of the most vulnerable in our community - children".

The announcement comes more than two years after a Victorian Law Reform Commission review of the Sex Offenders Registration Act handed down 79 recommendations, including enhanced information sharing about sex offenders between police and parents of at-risk children.

The commission review was conducted after a damning Ombudsman report into a failure by police to notify the Department of Human Services of more than 300 registered sex offenders who had unsupervised access to children or were living with them.

On Wednesday Mr Wells said the amendments would give police more powers to track sexual offenders and that it was "common sense" to allow police to share sex offender details with the family of a child that has had contact with an offender.

The new powers could be used in cases where a sex offender has contact with a child, for example through their work, in a situation where that child's family may not be aware, such as a perpetrator regularly serving a child in a shop.

"If there is information on the sex offenders register that can be made available to a parent or made available to a third party then that person should have it if Victoria Police believe that a child is in danger," Mr Wells said.

When asked whether this provision would extend to notifying neighbours about the identity of a sex offender, Deputy Commissioner Graham Ashton said it was "primarily focused on the guardian or person responsible for the safety of that child".

"That's the person we want to communicate to," he said. "We've had cases where we've wanted to tell people about the risks to a particular child and have not been able to do so."

Information sharing between Victoria Police and the Department of Human Services would also be strengthened by the new legislation.

Registered sex offenders would have to report any interstate or international travels plans to police in an amendment provision aimed at stamping out the abuse of children by Australians abroad.

"It's also about cracking down on the child sex tourism racket that we want to be able to close down overseas," Mr Wells said. "When they get back from overseas they have to go back to police to prove that the original travel plans were fulfilled."

The changes would affect 3500 people already on the register and anyone subsequently added.

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