Photo Courtesy of: file graphic
THE WRENCHING WORDS of a long-time supporter – whose own terminal health problems should preclude her giving a damn about me, or any of my causes -- cut through all the crap over the weekend when I heard the politicians had rejected my call for a national public register of convicted sex offenders.
That stalwart, whom I’ll just call Bree, even struggled to Canberra when I faced the High Court over naming two of Australia’s worst paedophiles at a rally on the steps of Victoria’s Parliament House -- where other pollies weren’t listening.
From her sickbed, this passionate campaigner wrote:
‘I have no words, only rivers of tears of disgust, disappointment, heart-break, lack of empathy & pure evilness at those who have the power to protect our innocent and vulnerable & have decided against that protection: by rejecting an open sex offenders register. You have been fighting this war for more than half of my life good friend, and to hear the news and see your You-tube speech has broken my heart, as I know how damn (I would like to use another word) hard you have worked towards it and the sacrifices that you make every day of your life, because of it’.
‘Bree, Bree…you concentrate on yourself. I’m fine. Hey, how many other individuals even get the attention of all Justice Ministers even if they did say NO? It’s a temporary setback.’
I don’t deny it is a huge setback. But, as I said on Sunrise this morning: ‘I'm not giving up, it's a big blow - but maintain the rage’.
And we shall. More than 155,000 of you have signed the petition. I now urge you, with state elections looming everywhere, to write to your local politicians.
As I said, in the editorial I recorded here for HinchTube at the weekend I was alerted to the rejection by the Justice Ministers through a flood of text messages that started early Saturday morning.
I have since seen part of a communique from the LCCSC, which stands for the Law, Crime, Community Safety Council. (‘Community safety’. Now that’s a laugh.)
The communique said:
Publishing sex offender details: Having consulted with Australian law enforcement agencies and assessed the empirical evidence on the efficacy of public notification schemes, LCCSC Ministers have concluded that Mr Hinch’s proposal to publish a national public register of all convicted sex offenders is not supported. LCCSC Ministers will continue to monitor evidence on the efficacy of schemes involving limited public disclosure of sex offenders’ details, such as those operating in South Australia and Western Australia, with a view to discussing that evidence at a future date -- LCCSC Communiqué October 3 2014.
Yep, things are really working well in Adelaide and out west. In SA, recently, they had a huge breakthrough. Two sex offenders had absconded so they published the photos and details of the men on the police website. But they warned TV stations and newspapers they would be in breach of the law if they reproduced them. Duh ?
According to a report in The Australian today, ‘Commanders are now considering reforms similar to those in Western Australia in 2011, allowing people to search by postcode for dangerous and repeat offenders living nearby’.
(In Melbourne recently, a suburban newspaper tried to get the number of sex offenders listed by post code only to see where most of them lived and the FOI appeal was rejected).
Post codes? Wow!
system isn’t working
What gets to me most, as I read about the ivory tower politicians and their ‘empirical evidence on the efficacy of public notification schemes’, is that senior police have told me privately that the current system isn’t working.
It sounds reassuring to the public when they read that a paedophile’s name has been ‘put on the sex offenders register for fifteen years’. But it’s basically PR.
There are more than 5000 names on that register in Victoria and more than 7000 in New South Wales. There’s no way police can regularly monitor the behaviour of that many predators.
And, as coppers at the coal face tell me (as recently as Saturday night), those registers are kept in locked drawers and uniform officers do not have access to them.
The main argument against a public register is that it would ‘drive them underground’.
They are already underground. Anonymity and secrecy are a predator’s main weapons – especially against innocent, vulnerable children.
To argue that the spotlight will send them underground is like saying you can’t attack cockroaches because they scurry from the light.
I got the bad news Saturday and immediately thought of that comment from the sheriff I interviewed about sex offenders and the public register (and public signs outside their residences) in Florida.
He heard about the privacy laws and paedophile coddling here and said: ‘Don’t your politicians and judges have children of their own down there?’