Preface

In April 2011, the Attorney-General asked the Commission to review the registration of sex offenders under the Sex Offenders Registration Act 2004(Vic) following a report by the Ombudsman, which revealed that Victoria Police had not informed the Department of Human Services of more than 300 registered sex offenders who were living with children or had unsupervised contact with them.

The Sex Offenders Registration Act established the first of three statutory schemes in Victoria that seek to protect children from exposure to people who are living in the community after completing a sentence for sexual offending. The Act took Victorian law into the largely uncharted territory of preventative responses to sexual offending. The other two statutory schemes designed to protect children from convicted sex offenders are the Working with Children Checks and legislation that permits the detention and supervision of serious sex offenders after they have completed their sentences.

The Ombudsman referred in his report to concerns held by various senior office holders about the limitations of the Sex Offenders Registration Act. The Commission found that others who have direct experience in the operation of the scheme and the management and treatment of sex offenders share their concerns. This report examines the issues they raised and proposes systemic reform to the registration scheme to strengthen its focus on protecting children from those who may harm them and to enable Victoria Police and the Department of Human Services to direct their resources more effectively to that purpose.

The Hon John Coldrey QC, a retired Justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria and former Director of Public Prosecutions, has assisted in the preparation of this report as a consultant to the Commission. Mr Coldrey is also a judicial member of the Adult Parole Board and chairs the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine council. The Commission has benefited greatly from his extensive experience and deep understanding of the criminal law, and I extend to him my thanks for his contribution to our work.

Dr Bill Glaser, a forensic psychiatrist of many years standing, was engaged as a clinical consultant. Dr Glaser has published extensively on the assessment and treatment of sex offenders, mental health legislation, psychiatric problems of civil litigants, mental health of prisoners and the problems with offenders with an intellectual disability. I thank him for his perceptive and practical insights into the complexities of preventative responses to sexual offending.

Throughout the reference, senior officers of the key agencies gave generously of their time to provide the Commission with information about the registration scheme, sex offender treatment and management programs and child protection policies and practices. I thank in particular the Chief Commissioner of Police, the Secretary of the Department of Justice and the Secretary of the Department of Human Services. My thanks go also to the members of their executive teams who provided the Commission with information and insights that contributed to our reform proposals.

In addition, members of the Adult Parole Board assisted the Commission by sharing their experience and specialist knowledge in managing sex offenders. I thank the Hon David Jones AM, Chairperson of the Detention and Supervision Order Division of the Adult Parole Board, and Anthony Vitale, the Manager of the Division, for their assistance.

There has been little Australian research into the effect of sex offender registration schemes. The contributions made by all those who made submissions or participated in consultations greatly enhanced the Commission’s understanding of the Victorian scheme and of the need for reform. I thank them all.

I would like to acknowledge in particular the contributions made by two of the country’s leading scholars in the field of child sexual offending—Professor Stephen Smallbone and Emeritus Professor Paul Mullen—who generously shared their expertise with the Commission and assisted us in exploring how to improve the sex offender registration scheme.

I express my thanks to the members of the Division of the Commission who worked with me on this reference: Magistrate Mandy Chambers, Justice Karin Emerton and Judge Felicity Hampel.

The Commission team allocated to the reference have worked tirelessly to produce this report. The team was very ably led by Lindy Smith, who brought a wealth of policy experience to this role. The Commission engaged Laura McDonough, an experienced Victoria Legal Aid (VLA) solicitor, accredited criminal law specialist and manager of the VLA sexual offences team, to work on this project. Her knowledge of criminal law and practice was invaluable. Mia Hollick completed the research and policy team, contributing her excellent legal research skills and remarkable attention to detail.

Sarah Krasnostein, who was engaged to assist in organising consultations, supported the research and policy team. Natalie Lilford, Jessica Saunders and Julie Bransden provided research assistance, Carlie Jennings managed the production of this report, and Kathy Karlevski, Vicki Christou and Failelei Siatua provided administrative services. The Commission’s Chief Executive Officer, Merrin Mason, supported the entire team in many ways. My thanks go to all of them for their professionalism.

 

Professor Neil Rees

Chairperson

22 December 2011

Date Published: 
Tuesday, January 21, 2014 - 14:15

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