Human Headline might have a point on naming offenders
Derryn Hinch is at it again, naming a convicted paedophile, and this time complicating matters by also naming his victim. He claims he had her permission, she claims he did not. It’s messy.
It’s a habit of Hinch’s which has seen him jailed, subjected to house arrest, and even go all the way to the High Court. Aside from his health battles, defying suppression orders on sex offenders is the thing he’s most famous for.
On Monday during his Melbourne radio program Hinch named a Sydney property developer, convicted of sexually assaulting his then-11-year-old daughter. She’s now in her 30s. It’s easy for this to be dismissed as Hinch at it again, except this has happened very quickly after a major Victorian review into child safety that recommended suppression orders on the names of convicted child sex offenders be scrapped.
Retired judge Philip Cummins released his “Protecting Victoria’s Vulnerable Children” inquiry report at the end of February. It’s a huge document, which covers many aspects of child protection.
But there’s a recommendation specifically about suppression orders, which one member of the review panel did not support.
Section 182-186 of the Serious Sex Offenders (Detention and Supervision) Act 2009, which provides for the making of suppression orders, should be repealed.
It comes at the end of a chapter examining both sides of the argument, both of which are pretty compelling. (The PDF of the relevant part of the report is here, the discussion of suppression orders starts on page 362).
Cummins listed four justifications for the existing orders. To paraphrase: oppressive publicity unfairly adding to the burden of someone who has served their sentence; the impact on rehabilitation; the added administrative burden for authorities with the task of aiding rehabilitation; and, the “spectre of vigilantism”.
But on the side of scrapping the orders:
There are powerful considerations militating against the existence of sections 182-186. First, there is a fundamental value in open courts. Courts being open ‘keep the judge, while trying, under trial’ to use the famous words of Jeremy Bentham (Bentham 1843). It keeps the administration of justice under public scrutiny. It keeps the administration of government under public scrutiny. These are deep-seated modern democratic values, and they should be affirmed and maintained.
Suppression orders undermine, rather than enhance, public confidence in the courts. Second, parents and families have a right to know if a serious sex offender is residing among them.
Third, the community has a right to be informed about the functioning of the system in relation to serious sex offenders.
Fourth, as a group, paedophiles who are serious sex offenders are the most recidivist of all major categories of offenders. Fifth, the methodology of the paedophile is secrecy and the law should not itself provide a veil of secrecy to paedophiles.
Finally, the risk of vigilantism can be guarded against by specific provision, such as section 85L of the Community Protection (Offender Reporting) Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2011 of Western Australia, that proscribes conduct intended or likely to create animosity towards or harassment of an identified offender.
After Cummins’s report was released Victorian Minister for Community Services Mary Wooldridge somewhat understatedly described it as a “complex issue.”
“You have to balance the rights of the individual with the rights of the broader community, particularly vulnerable children,” she said.
Hinch, whose refusal to abide by an order was cited in the report, has clearly decided not to wait for possible reform. You’ve got to wonder if his new liver will see him through to a time when he won’t be breaking any laws.
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