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Spot Check Bill Introduced to NSW Parliament for Sex Offenders

By 16 October 2013Criminal Law

“Spot Check” Bill Introduced into NSW Parliament for Sex Offenders

The New South Wales (NSW) government is proposing wide search powers for police in a bid to protect the community from sex offenders reoffending. “Sadly, paedophiles have lifetime careers attacking children,” says NSW Attorney-General Greg Smith,and this is why parliamentarians have introduced a “Spot Check Bill” proposing changes to the Child Protection Act. The bill is set to be heard in October.

The proposed changes give the Police more power to deal with the state’s most serious paedophiles and sex offenders. In fact, some civil right groups condemn the proposed legislation as going too far.

The Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998

This Act provides for the standards of care and protection that should be afforded to children. The Act outlines the responsibilities of Community Services in NSW and other agencies as well as parents and authorised carers.

Overall, the Child Protection Act establishes the legislative framework governing the wellbeing and protection of children in NSW. The Act also sets out how children and young people who are at risk of being abused should be cared for in NSW and in what way the families of victims should be helped.

Proposed Changes to Child Protection Law

If approved, the Spot Check Bill will provide a system of monitoring the activities of registered sex offenders which will be executed by NSW Police. Spot checks will be conducted at random once in the first 28 days after they are listed on the Child Protection Register, and then once every year thereafter.

The following changes are now sitting before the NSW House

  • Additional police powers will give authority to conduct random searches at home and in the computers of sex offenders once every 12 months without warning.  Targeted sex offenders will be forced to provide computer passwords and login details.
  • The proposed bill will provide further limits on where a registered sex offender can work. They are not permitted to work in places where there is the possibility of contact with children, whether in vocational training or private contractors.
  • Refusal to submit to the demands of the police during the search would result to harsh penalties. For non-compliance, the penalty is set to a minimum two month prison term or a $2000 fine up to a maximum of five years jail time or a fine of $55,000 for the most notorious cases.
  • The bill will also include an increased penalty for failing to comply with the Child Protection Prohibition Order. The increased penalty would see a person who fails to comply hit with a fine of up to 500 penalty units, 5 years imprisonment, or both.
  • In the most serious cases, offenders are prohibited from working, conducting their own business, participating in volunteer work, or assuming the role of a religious leader if they are subjected to a Child Protection Prohibition Order. Prohibition Orders are issued by courts in cases where a child offender has chances of reoffending.

Community Reaction to the Bill

The President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Cameron Murphy believes this bill gives too much power to the Police. ”This is deja vu. Isn’t it just last week we had legislation that would allow police to search houses and vehicles of people on the banned firearms register?” Mr. Murphy said.

On the other hand, Dr Cathy Kezelman, President of advocacy group Adults Surviving Child Abuse, said this is something important, and that managing the activities of sex offenders is significant since the impact of child abuse has been widely documented. ”It is crucial that anyone registered as a sex offender is prohibited from working in a broader range of roles that may expose them to children,” she said.

NSW Attorney General Greg Smith (who introduced the bill) believes that ”This is a reasonable and balanced amendment, which should make any registered sex offender think twice about not complying with their reporting obligations.”