By Keira Wallace. Edited for online by Joseph Cooney.
The proposition of Queensland implementing a public sex offender register is being raised in state parliament today.
Proposed amendments to the Child Protection Act are calling for more stringent reporting with regards to child sex offenders.
The question has been raised following the trial of serial offender Brett Peter Cowan, and the possible failure of the system in protecting victims such as Daniel Morcombe.
Daniel’s father Bruce Morcombe is one advocate for the plan.
But QUT law lecturer Dr Kelly Richards says there is little evidence to support the success of a public register.
“There’s no evidence whatsoever from international jurisdictions that having a public register actually reduces crime or protects children,” Dr Richards said.
She also says having a register may cause further problems.
“There are issues around vigilante behaviour as well,” Dr Richards said.
“There have been numerous cases in the States and in the UK where somebody’s actually been mis-identified as a child sex offender and had their house vandalised or have been assaulted.
“There was a case in the UK where a paediatrician was mistaken for a paedophile.
“She had her house trashed and was driven out of the area, so it’s completely insane behaviour.”
Hetty Johnston, founder of child protection group Bravehearts, says while they do not fully endorse a public register, they do believe better options are available.
“What we do support is a register based on the UK model,” Ms Johnston said.
She says in the United Kingdom, Sarah’s Law allows authorities to disclose information to the public at their request.
“If you have a new person in your life, a new neighbour or babysitter who will be spending time with children, you can ring the police and you can get information about whether that person is on the register,” Ms Johnston said.
Queensland Council of Civil Liberties president Michael Cope is against the idea.
He says examples from overseas suggest why a public register could be dangerous in Queensland.
“There’s extensive evidence from the study in the United States of vigilantism, with a number of people being murdered,” Mr Cope said.
Ms Johnston also says a register could have a detrimental effect on victims.
“Naming the offender can often lead to the name of the victim, and quite often the victim doesn’t want to be named,” she said.