Brett Barrett: Brazen rockspider
Photo Courtesy of: The Age
THE HEADLINE WAS ENOUGH to piss me off, even before I read about the sick joke sentence handed down by the court.
The Age Page One said: Paedophile Slipped System, Opened Milk Bar Near School.
He hardly ‘slipped the system’, because the system barely exists at all.
The story outlined how a convicted interstate paedophile ‘was able to run a milk bar near a high school in Melbourne's south east and gain access to another young victim’.
Why doesn’t that surprise me? Why doesn’t that even register a tiny blip on my Shock0meter?
I’ve been banging on for eons about the inherent dangers and inadequacies in Victoria’s current sex offenders register.
The top secret one, kept in locked drawers, that only a few privileged senior coppers are permitted access to. The one that has more than 5000 names on it. The one that very senior police have admitted to me is not working.
If VicPol can’t keep tabs on the sex offenders on their own register, how the hell would they even know about a recidivist predator who moved here from another state?
Hell, the Luke Batty inquest is tragically showing that they can’t even arrest a wanted man when they have his address.
privileged to see it.
The child molester who ‘slipped the system’ is 53-year-old Brett Barrett. Look hard at his photo. As I explained to Eddie McGuire on MMM’s Hot Breakfast this morning, we are privileged to see it.
If his earlier sex crimes had been committed in Victoria, he would probably have done a deal on release and – in exchange for having his identity on the register – would have had his name, photo and address suppressed. Yep, they actually are allowed to do those deals in County Court.
Let’s look at what the brazen Mr. Barrett did as he wove his latest rockspider’s web to snare another victim.
According to The Age exclusive, Barrett re-opened a long-dormant milk bar, metres from a high school, in late 2013. The business also operated as a cafe and advertised ‘after-school specials’.
The place was open for less than six months and closed when Barrett was arrested in February and charged with three counts of committing an indecent act against a teenage victim, including groping the boy, showing him pornography and sending him a picture of his genitals.
It wasn’t until after he was arrested that Police discovered Barrett had been sentenced to two years' jail in Queensland in the late 1990s for sexual offences against a teenage boy.not on the register.
One of the problems it seems, in fairness to police, is that although Victoria joined the National Child Offender Register in 2004, and anybody convicted of a sexual offence against a child since faces reporting rules and police monitoring, the laws do not apply to sex offenders whose crimes predate that and their names are not on the register.
The newspaper quotes an unnamed detective saying: ‘Since the legislation kicked in, he would have been monitored and we would have known about it.’
I’m not so sure. In fact, I’m not confident that would have been the case at all.
And here comes the kicker. Sadly, in any story like this these days, you know it just has to get worse.
Barrett appeared in court yesterday. He was sentenced to only seven months jail. A repeat sex offender. Seven months jail. That’s sick. And these are only the crimes he has been caught for. You can bet there are dozens more.
Magistrate Amanda Chambers also imposed an 18-month corrections order requiring Barrett to undergo treatment. She also said he would now be added to the sex offenders register and face lifelong reporting obligations.
How does the father of his latest victim explain that piddling sentence to his son? He told Fairfax Media about the devastating impact it had had on his boy. ‘He locks the house up like Fort Knox. He won't catch the bus any more’.
Reportedly, Barrett’s lawyer intends to appeal against the sentence. I hope he does. And I hope the appellate court decides Magistrate Chambers’ sentence was grossly inadequate and increases the seven months to seven years before parole.
Footnote: This all comes about after the Justice Ministers, state and federal, unanimously threw out my proposal for a national public register of convicted sex offenders and after the Northern Territory announced it would go it alone with a public register next year.
At least, the Victorian Police Minister, Kim Wells, hasn’t totally slammed the door on the idea. A spokesman is quoted in The Age saying: ‘Minister Wells has made a commitment to monitor evidence on the efficacy of schemes involving public disclosure of sex offenders with a view to discussing that evidence at a future date’.
As I write this, I’m on a flight to New Zealand -- where a public register is also an issue . So, to quote a famous Kiwi, Rachel Hunter: ‘ It won’t heppen overnight. But it will heppen.’
And it will.