4 Sex offenders and the risk of harm to children

 

Introduction

  1. 4.1 This chapter examines the evidence base for establishing and maintaining the sex offenders registration scheme. As discussed in Chapter 2, the Sex Offenders Registration Act 2004 (Vic) states that the scheme is intended to reduce the risk of re-offending.
  2. 4.2 This expectation conveys two beliefs. The first is that the incidence of child sexual abuse in the community has required the introduction of a regime to monitor people who have prior convictions for child sexual offences. The second is that a registration scheme deters and reduces re-offending by those people.
  3. 4.3 The evidence for these beliefs is discussed below.

The need for a registration scheme

The incidence of child sexual abuse

  1. 4.4 The incidence and prevalence of child sexual abuse are very difficult to quantify. It is under-reported and difficult to investigate. The victims are reluctant to disclose the abuse to their families for a variety of reasons; when they do, the families are reluctant to report it to the police or other authorities.1
  2. 4.5 Estimates of the incidence of child sexual abuse by researchers vary according to how they define the offences and collect data about them.
  3. 4.6 Australian studies that comprehensively measured the prevalence of sexually abusive behaviour against children in the general community have produced estimates in the following ranges:2

Table 5—Estimates of the prevalence of child sexual abuse

 

Prevalence among males

Prevalence among females

Penetrative child sexual abuse

4–8%

7–12%

Non-penetrative child sexual abuse

12–16%

23–36%

 

  1. 4.7 Whether child sexual abuse is becoming more prevalent is difficult to determine. Smallbone, Marshall and Wortley have observed that, although child protection authorities are reporting increases in the number of substantiated cases of child sexual abuse, there is some evidence in Australia and overseas that abuse of this nature is declining.3

Reported offences

  1. 4.8 Statistics of reported offences can provide only an indication of the incidence of child sexual abuse because these offences are under-reported.
  2. 4.9 In 2005, the Australian Bureau of Statistics conducted a Personal Safety Survey in which it collected information about men’s and women’s experiences of physical or sexual assault.4 It found that there had been an increase in the incidence of reporting by women who had been sexually assaulted. During the 12 months before the 2005 survey, 19 per cent (19,100) of those assaulted had reported the sexual assault to the police. During the 12 months before a similar survey in 1996, 15 per cent (14,700) of those assaulted had reported the sexual assault to the police.5
  3. 4.10 In 2007, drawing upon the results of the Personal Safety Survey, the Sentencing Advisory Council found that less than 20 per cent of victims of sexual assault reported the offence to police.6 Under-reporting about sexual offences against children is likely to be even greater. Professor Paul Mullen observed in his submission that, although 30–50 per cent of child victims report the offence to someone, probably less than five per cent of the offences are reported to police.7
Police statistics on number of offences
  1. 4.11 The number of sexual offences reported to police is increasing. Statistics released by Victoria Police in August 2011 show that 1826 rape offences were reported in Victoria in the 2010–11 financial year, an increase of 9.3 per cent on the previous year.8 Other sexual offences (non-rape) rose by 5.8 per cent from 5421 to 5735.9
  2. 4.12 Also in 2010–11, the Australian Federal Police charged 128 people across Australia with carriage service child offences,10 which include producing, possessing, transmitting and soliciting pornography and using services to groom children for sexual purposes.11
New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics
  1. 4.13 The New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics has undertaken longer-term analysis of trends in sexual offences. The Bureau recently published a report by Steve Moffat and Derek Goh on trends in the rates of 10 major categories of property and violent crime over the 20-year period 1990–2010 in New South Wales.12 While the rates for most offences declined, the rate of sexual assault grew by 128 per cent and that of other sexual offences by 67 per cent. The sharpest rises were in the mid to late 1990s and the rate of increase has eased since then. Nevertheless, sexual assault was the only offence that registered an upward trend over the period and was at its highest in 2010. The trend for other sexual offences is stable.13
  2. 4.14 Figure 1 has been prepared from statistics published in the report.
  3. 4.15 Trends similar to those identified in New South Wales are likely to have occurred in Victoria, though these figures refer to all sexual offences and the trend for child sexual offences may be different.

Figure 1—New South Wales sexual offence crime statistics 1990–201014

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Australian Bureau of Statistics data on victims
  1. 4.16 Every year, the Australian Bureau of Statistics publishes information from police records about the number of victims of sexual offences. These statistics are different from those published by police forces in individual states and territories because different definitions of offences and counting methodologies are used.
  2. 4.17 National recorded crime victims statistics are compiled on a victim basis— they count the number of victims for each individual offence category as determined by the Australian and New Zealand Standard Offence Classification, rather than the number of breaches of the criminal law. By comparison, the Victoria Police statistics count the number of offences.
  3. 4.18 According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics,15 there were 3463 reported victims of sexual offences in Victoria during 2010. Of these, 1000 were victims under the age of 15. A further 962 were between 15 and 19 years of age.
  4. 4.19 As Table 6 shows, these results are consistent with those compiled in previous years.
  5. 4.20 There is an apparent discrepancy between the Victoria Police statistics relating to the increase in the number of reported sexual offences and the Australian Bureau of Statistics figures, which show a smaller growth in victim numbers. This disparity may well be due to the commission of multiple offences against a single victim.16

Table 6—Victims of sexual offences 2006–10, by age group and sex, Victoria17

Age range*

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

Female

Male

Female

Male

Female

Male

Female

Male

Female

Male

0–9

125

56

240

103

104

114

238

102

214

104

10–14

359

48

670

116

700

102

592

86

555

122

15–19

635

62

985

74

886

113

823

73

890

72

20+

1326

167

1649

229

1699

188

1250

130

1337

133

Total

2445

333

3544

522

3389

517

2903

391

2996

431

 

* includes unspecified age

Court cases

  1. 4.21 Although it is impossible to gauge the precise level of sexual offending in the community, the prosecution of these offences is increasing.
  2. 4.22 Sexual offences constituted 12.5 per cent of the County Court’s criminal workload in 2001–02.18 In 2009–10, the proportion was 20 per cent.19 Over the same period, the number of sexual offence cases initiated in the County Court each year grew by 55 per cent, from 324 to 502. However, as the data in Figure 2 shows, the number of new cases decreased in 2009–10.

Figure 2—County Court Sexual Assault Cases 2001–02 to 2009–1020

Image56298.PNG

  1. 4.23 In 2010–11, sexual offences again made up less than a quarter of all criminal matters initiated in the County Court. However, they accounted for 46 per cent of all criminal trials.21 One reason for this is that, compared to other criminal cases, sexual offence cases more frequently go to trial. While 74 per cent of non-sexual offence cases in 2010–11 were finalised by the offender pleading guilty, only 50 per cent of sexual offences were resolved this way.22
  2. 4.24 Sexual offence cases involving a child or a cognitively impaired witness accounted for 38 per cent of sexual offence trials in the County Court in 2010–11.23
  3. 4.25 A sharper increase in workload has occurred in the Magistrates’ Court and the trend remains upward, as shown in Figure 3.24 The number of cases initiated in the sexual offences summary stream more than tripled in the three years between 2006–07 and 2009–10. While 109 cases were initiated in 2006-07, there were 349 in 2009–10.25

Figure 3—Magistrates’ Court Sexual Offence List Summary Stream: Number of Matters 2006–07 to 2009–1026

Image56306.PNG

  1. 4.26 When the Magistrates’ Court and County Court figures are combined, it is clear that there has been a significant increase in the prosecution of sexual offences.

Child protection complaints

  1. 4.27 The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare publishes annual reports on state and territory child protection services. The most recent report was for 2009–10. During that year, the number of children who were subject to a notification decreased by 10 per cent nationally (from 207,462 to 187,314), though the number of children on protection orders increased by seven per cent (from 35,409 to 37,730).27
  2. 4.28 According to figures published by the Australian Institute for Health and Welfare, the number of substantiated cases of maltreatment of children in Victoria in 2009–10 was 6603. The most prevalent form of substantiated maltreatment was emotional abuse (3137 cases), followed by physical abuse (2468 cases), sexual abuse (526 cases) and neglect (472 cases).28 While it is possible that sexual abuse was under-represented because it is harder to prove than emotional or physical abuse, it is clearly not the most prevalent form of harm to children that is reported in Victoria.
  3. 4.29 More recent figures from the Department of Human Services indicate that the number of substantiated cases of child sexual abuse grew in 2010-11, though reports of sexual abuse are still a small proportion of all child protection reports. During 2010–11, the Department received 55,137 child protection reports from members of the community and mandatory reporters.29 Of these, 8232 were substantiated. Sexual abuse was the primary substantiated type of harm in 795 (9.6 per cent) cases.30
  4. 4.30 While the data indicates that reports of and prosecutions for sexual offences are increasing, it is unclear whether the incidence of child sexual abuse has increased. In view of the low rate of reporting of child sexual offences, it is difficult to determine whether an increase in reported offences is simply an increase in the rate of reporting rather than an indication that more sexual offences are being committed. Other reasons, such as changes to the ways in which these cases are handled by the police and the courts, might explain the increase in reports of child sexual abuse and the increasing number of prosecutions.

The effectiveness of registration

  1. 4.31 The Sex Offenders Registration Act is based on the assumption that sex offenders are less likely to re-offend if they are required to comply with reporting obligations under a registration scheme. However, the existing limited research data is equivocal as to whether registration is an effective means of reducing re-offending.

The risk from sex offenders in context

  1. 4.32 In considering the need for a registration scheme and the contribution it can make to the incidence of child sexual offending, it is important to be mindful that most child sexual offences are committed by persons known to the victim.
  2. 4.33 Sexual assaults by strangers are uncommon. Of the 1000 victims of sexual assault in Victoria in 2010 who were under the age of 15, 399 (40 per cent) were assaulted by family members and 499 (50 per cent) by someone else they knew. Assaults by strangers accounted for 67 (7 per cent) of the cases. In 41 cases, the relationship of the offender to the victim was not known.31
  3. 4.34 These statistics are consistent with research findings in Australia and overseas concerning sexual assaults against children. In a 2007 Australian study of 182 men sentenced for sexual offences against children, 56.5 per cent self-reported that they lived with the victim at the time of the offence, and 36.9 per cent reported that they knew the child at the time of the offence. Only 6.5 per cent were strangers.32
  4. 4.35 The Australian Bureau of Statistics Personal Safety Survey in 2005 reported that the relationship of victims to the perpetrator varies by the sex of the victim.33 Girls under the age of 15, who are far more likely than boys of the same age to be the victims of sexual offending, are most likely to be abused by a relative. The perpetrator identified most often by the survey was a male relative other than the girl’s father or stepfather (35.1 per cent). The next most prevalent perpetrator was the girl’s father or stepfather (16.5 per cent) or a family friend (16.5 per cent), followed by an acquaintance or neighbour (15.4 per cent), another known person (11 per cent) or a stranger (8.6 per cent).
  5. 4.36 Boys under the age of 15 are most at risk from someone to whom they are not related. The survey showed that the perpetrator was often known to the boy but was not a relative, family friend, acquaintance or neighbour (27.3 per cent). Strangers accounted for 18.3 per cent of the surveyed cases of sexual abuse of boys. The next most prevalent perpetrators were a male relative other than a father or stepfather (16.4 per cent), an acquaintance or neighbour (16.2 per cent) and a family friend (15.6 per cent).34
  6. 4.37 These figures indicate that preventative and protective measures should be directed toward intra-familial risks of offending as well as to the far less prevalent risk of ‘stranger danger’.
  7. 4.38 The available data also suggests a need for measures to be directed to protecting children from the risk of harm from individuals with no prior sexual offending history. It is very important to bear in mind that most child sexual offences are committed by people who have not previously been convicted of an offence of that type. For example, over the period 2006–07 to 2007–08, 93.1 per cent of the charges in Victoria for sexual penetration of a child aged 10 to 16 were against defendants with no prior convictions for sexual offences. The highest proportion of defendants with a prior sexual offence conviction occurred in cases with charges of sexual penetration with a child aged under 10 (22.5 per cent).35
  8. 4.39 Smallbone, Marshall and Wortley, who have conducted extensive research into sexual offending, advocate an evidence-based prevention-centred approach to addressing the problem. They propose a public health model focusing on how to target offenders, victims, situations and communities at different levels.36 As offenders, victims and the circumstances in which offending occurs interact differently and the consequences vary, broader prevention strategies than can be provided by a registration scheme are needed.

Recidivism rates of child sex offenders

  1. 4.40 The design of the sex offenders registration scheme, and particularly the statutory inclusion of all offenders who are sentenced for certain offences, reflects an assumption that all sex offenders are likely to re-offend. In a recent paper published by the Australian Institute of Criminology, Kelly Richards observed that ‘in public and media discourse, child sex offenders are often constructed as compulsive recidivists who are virtually certain to re-offend’.37 Richards has contrasted this with the view, often expressed by criminologists, that sex offenders have low rates of recidivism compared with other types of offenders.38
  2. 4.41 Many studies have examined the recidivism rates of sex offenders overseas, but few have been completed in Australia. According to Karen Gelb, in a paper published by the Sentencing Advisory Council, the Australian results are consistent with a large body of international research, which has found that ‘most serious violent and sexual criminals do not have previous convictions for violent or sexual offences and are not reconvicted for violent and sexual offending’.39
  3. 4.42 Recidivism is not easy to measure. Researchers use different definitions and methodologies and the rates they calculate are not necessarily comparable.40 In any event, the rates they identify are likely to be conservative because sexual offences are under-reported.
  4. 4.43 Several large-scale studies overseas have found sex offenders to have lower recidivism rates and less criminal history than those committing non-sexual serious crimes.41 Significantly, they have found that different types of sex offenders re-offend at different rates.
  5. 4.44 In 1998, a Canadian analysis of 61 studies of rates of recidivism of sexual offenders42 found that an average of 13.4 per cent committed further sexual offences.43 However, the average re-offence rate for rapists was 18.9 per cent, while that for child sex offenders was 12.7 per cent.44 Another study in 2005 yielded similar results, revealing a 13.7 per cent recidivism rate for sexual offences.45
  6. 4.45 When examining the nature and incidence of sexual offending, it is useful to make a distinction between sex offenders and other offenders, and further distinguish between different types of sex offenders. In practice they are not so easily categorised. Sex offenders tend to have versatile criminal careers, with their sexual offending embedded in more general offending behaviour.46 For example, evidence shows that child sex offenders are more than twice as likely to be convicted of non-sexual offences as sexual offences, both before and after the sexual offending.47
  7. 4.46 Based on Australian research, Wortley and Smallbone48 have argued against the widely held view that most sex offenders are ‘dedicated serious offenders drawn by irresistible sexual urges’. Their research into registered sex offenders found the following characteristics:49
  • Fewer than a quarter had previous convictions for sexual offences but a majority had previous convictions for non-sexual offences.
  • 94 per cent abused their own child or a child they already knew.
  • Many began their offending behaviour when well into adulthood, and more than a third began when between 31 and 40 years of age.
  • There was not a great deal of networking among offenders and only about 8 per cent had talked to other offenders.
  • There was a low incidence of child pornography use, with only about 10 per cent having used it.
  • There was a low incidence of other deviant sexual behaviour.
  1. 4.47 The risk of re-offending is greatest for those offenders who started offending at an early age, have stable deviant sexual preferences, have multiple convictions for sexual offending, have committed diverse sexual offences and target male child victims.50 The size of the group may be small but these offenders present a danger of serious harm to the community.51
  2. 4.48 Although calculating recidivism rates is an ongoing challenge, the research suggests protective legislative responses to the risk that a sex offender will re-offend should be responsive to different levels of risk and not be based on the common assumption that recidivism is inevitable in all cases.
  3. 4.49 The evidence indicates that not all child sex offenders are alike. They do not all behave in the same way. Not all child sex offenders are paedophiles. Paedophiles are sexually attracted to young children. Other offenders may be sexually interested in adults as well as children and act out of opportunity rather than preference. Moreover, not all paedophiles are sex offenders. Although attracted to children they may not act on the attraction. As Gelb concluded after surveying the research in Australia and overseas:

Across all these studies, one consistent result has emerged: substantially different recidivism rates and patterns and precursors of offending are found for different types of sex offender. This variation has implications for risk assessment and treatment, and also highlights the theoretical and policy dangers of seeing sex offenders as a homogenous and coherent group, when in fact the evidence suggests this is not the case.52

Risk assessment tools

  1. 4.50 As Gelb has observed, ‘the prediction of risk of re-offending is notoriously difficult and often inaccurate’.53 There are a number of methods used by psychologists and psychiatrists for this purpose, and the balancing of factors that increase or decrease the risk has become more finely tuned over time. However, leading clinicians have observed that:

With recent advances in the field of risk assessment, the available methods to predict risk for future sex offending are significantly better than chance but still relatively moderately accurate.54

  1. 4.51 Clinicians employ static and dynamic predictors of risk. Static predictors are unchanging historical factors that have been found to be related to recidivism. Dynamic predictors are factors that contribute to risk but change over time. They may be stable, which means they change slowly, or acute, which means they may be present for a short period.
  2. 4.52 There are two broad approaches to risk assessments—actuarial instruments and structured professional judgment.55 The Static 99 is a widely used actuarial instrument that has been designed to estimate the risk of sexual recidivism among adult males who have been convicted of at least one child sexual offence. It measures 10 factors that have been shown to have a connection with sexual re-offending. These factors are weighted and a score is given against each.
  3. 4.53 As an actuarial tool, the Static 99 can provide a foundation for further analysis but does not assist in understanding the ongoing changeable nature of the risk that a particular individual will re-offend. The individual is associated with data about a group of people with similar characteristics. The risk of re-offending applies to the group in which the individual is placed because of their score.56 There is particular concern about static assessments being used in court, where their limitations may not be understood.57
  4. 4.54 Recognition of the limitations of relying on static factors led to the development of instruments which assess dynamic factors. The Sex Offender Needs Assessment Rating, for example, measures stable and acute dynamic factors. The stable dynamic factors include intimacy deficits, negative social influences, attitudes tolerant of sexual offending, sexual self-regulation and general regulation, all assessed over the preceding 12 months. The acute dynamic factors are substance abuse, negative mood, anger and victim access, assessed over the preceding 6–12 months.58
  5. 4.55 The second broad approach to risk assessment, structured professional judgment, takes into account both historical and dynamic risk factors. In view of the criticisms of actuarial assessment, and the shortcomings of the earlier type of tests, some mental health professionals prefer to use their professional judgment within a structured framework to consider relevant static and dynamic factors and their likely impact on future offending. Examples of this type of assessment include the Sexual Violence Risk-20 and the Risk for Sexual Violence Protocol.
  6. 4.56 Professor James Ogloff, Director, Centre for Forensic Behavioural Science, Monash University and Director of Psychological Services, Forensicare, and Dominic Doyle, clinical and forensic psychologist, Forensicare, contend that:

Due to their recent development, the [structured professional judgment] approach has only been evaluated in a handful of studies; although this research has generally been quite promising and has found that the SVR-20 is predicting sexual offending with moderate to high degrees of accuracy.59

  1. 4.57 Experienced psychiatrists and psychologists commonly use the structured professional judgement approach when preparing risk assessment reports for courts.
  2. 4.58 In Secretary to the Department of Justice v AB, counsel for the respondent challenged the reliability of the risk assessment instruments that were used to determine the likelihood that AB would commit a relevant sexual offence if released into the community without supervision.60 Judge Iain Ross61 described the relevant instruments and provided an analysis of their accuracy and usefulness.62 While cautioning against using them in a mechanistic way, he concluded that they provide a legitimate component of a structured clinical judgment about an individual offender. Judge Ross agreed with and adopted the conclusion of the New Zealand Court of Appeal in R v Peta:

Risk assessments and the related judicial decision making for risk management are best informed through an individualised formulation of risk. This should draw upon a variety of different sources of information in an attempt to identify risk factors within a aetiological (causative) framework. This recognises that risk is contingent upon factors that are both environmental and inherent in the individual. Such an approach also helps avoid the shortcomings of a mechanical and potentially formulaic assessment of risk, one that is overly reliant on static historical factors and potentially insensitive to features of the individual that change with time and context.63

  1. 4.59 This conclusion suggests that the risk assessments by clinicians with expertise in using the available assessment methods and instruments to inform their opinions can be of assistance to the court, though it is important to acknowledge the limitations of the tools used. The Commission notes the sombre warning of Doyle, Ogloff and Thomas that dependence on risk assessment for the operation of post-sentence schemes for managing serious sex offenders ‘places a considerable burden on the clinician and raises expectations that are perhaps impossible to attain’.64

The existing research into the effectiveness of registration schemes

  1. 4.60 Much of the research into the effectiveness of sex offender registration is from the United States, and is therefore not directly applicable to the Australian context. The United States schemes include community notification, whereby sex offender registers are made public, and residence restrictions, which prohibit registered sex offenders from living within a certain distance of places like schools, kindergartens and playgrounds.65 With these limitations in mind, research from the United States is equivocal about the effectiveness of registration in reducing sexual re-offending.

Effectiveness of registration alone

  1. 4.61 The Commission is aware of only one United States study that evaluates registration separately from community notification.66 This study focused on the law enforcement purposes of registration, as distinct from the aim of notification laws ‘to reduce crime through greater public awareness of nearby offenders’.67
  2. 4.62 The study found no evidence that fear of registration deters non-registered people from committing sexual offences.68 However, it found that registration does reduce sexual offending by registered sex offenders against people who are close to them, but not against strangers.69 The authors suggest that this effect of registration is achieved by law enforcement agencies monitoring offenders.70

Effectiveness of registration coupled with community notification

  1. 4.63 A 2008 study followed 550 sex offenders released from custody between 1990 and 2000.71 This study assessed the effectiveness of Megan’s Law, a federal law introduced in 2006 that required all states to make their sex offender registers publicly accessible via the internet.72 It found that this law ‘showed no demonstrable effect in reducing sexual reoffenses’ and ‘no effect on reducing the number of victims involved in sexual offenses’.73 The Commission reiterates that United States studies must be viewed with some caution because of the community notification elements of the sex offender registration schemes.
  2. 4.64 A 2009 review of the existing research into registration and community notification found that:

Regarding specific deterrence, the weight of the evidence indicates the laws have no statistically significant effect on recidivism … we tentatively conclude that existing research does not offer much policy guidance on the specific deterrent effect of registration/notification laws.74

  1. 4.65 A 2010 summary of existing research into the effectiveness of sex offender registration and notification laws in the United States found that eight out of nine recent studies failed to find any clear effect of these laws on sexual offence recidivism.75 These authors also conducted their own study of South Carolina’s sex offender registration and notification laws, which closely replicate the federal laws, and found:

Results indicated that offender registration status at the time of recidivism was not associated with reduced risk of sex crime recidivism or reduced time to detection of sex crime recidivism … There was no evidence that South Carolina’s broad [sex offender registration and notification] policy decreased recidivism rates.76

Additional commentary

  1. 4.66 United Kingdom academic Terry Thomas warns that high levels of compliance with reporting obligations are not indicative of a reduction in sexual offending rates.77 He also makes the point that:

In the face of limited evidence on the effectiveness of registers it could be that they are expensive policies built on no evidence base, and the result of public concerns and political expediency to be seen to be doing something. Politicians may speak of their usefulness … but such statements stand alone from research results.78

Symbolic effects of registration

  1. 4.67 United States researchers Sample, Evans and Anderson state that even if sex offender registration policy cannot be demonstrated to have an instrumental effect on offenders’ behaviour, the laws can be characterised as symbolic, providing the public with reassurance that sex offenders’ whereabouts are known and their behaviour monitored.79 However, they ask:

Is there a tipping point at which time the resources expended to adhere to symbolic laws and a point where the financial and human costs of the law become too high to continue to support legislation that is largely symbolic in nature?80

  1. 4.68 In response to the 2008 study that found Megan’s Law to have no appreciable effects on recidivism or public safety,81 Megan Kanka’s mother was quoted as saying:

the purpose of the law was to provide an awareness to parents … Five million people have gone to the state website. It’s doing what it was supposed to do … we never said it would stop them from reoffending or wandering to another town.82

It is possible, in light of the United States research, that any symbolic value of registration is diminished by the fact that it may give parents a false sense of security about the safety of their children.83

Conclusions from the data

  1. 4.69 There is no compelling evidence as to whether there has been a significant increase in child sexual abuse in Victoria in recent years, as distinct from an increase in prosecutions for child sexual offences. There is also no compelling evidence that registration schemes are an effective means of reducing child sexual abuse because they deter re-offending.
  2. 4.70 Existing research indicates that child sex offenders do not comprise a homogenous group. For example, commonly held assumptions that child sex offenders have high rates of recidivism and predominantly prey on children who are unknown to them are not supported by evidence.
  3. 4.71 On the other hand, criminological studies demonstrate the existence of a subset of child sex offenders who do re-offend frequently and target extra-familial male children. There is empirical evidence that they abuse a high number of victims.
  4. 4.72 The vulnerability of child victims and the devastating effect of sexual abuse on them have led to the creation of legislative schemes designed to protect children from people who return to the community after completing sentences for sexual offences. The Commission has discussed the current regimes in Chapters 2 and 3 of this report.
  5. 4.73 There is no data about the effectiveness of the Victorian sex offender registration scheme in reducing re-offending. This lack of information is an Australia-wide phenomenon.
  6. 4.74 Research is clearly required, but any study will necessarily extend over a number of years. While the efficacy of the registration scheme remains unknown, the available data does reveal that some types of child sex offenders are more prone to re-offend than others.
  7. 4.75 As not all of the high-risk offenders fall within the ambit of the Serious Sex Offenders (Detention and Supervision) Act 2009 (Vic), other preventative measures may need to be used.
  8. 4.76 It is therefore prudent—indeed essential—that the current sex offenders registration scheme should be refined and strengthened in order to concentrate on those people who pose the greatest risk to children.

Footnotes

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