Police Minister Rob Johnson has defended the State Government's proposed new sex offender register against attacks from lawyers, criminologists and the police union, saying they had not yet seen the legislation.
Mr Johnson dismissed concerns that the new register would drive sex offenders already on the national register underground, adding he was confident he had public support for the measures.
The Government will introduce to Parliament this week legislation to create a three-tiered sex offenders register.
The first tier would allow members of the public to see the names, photographs and personal details of serious sex offenders who have “gone underground” by failing to comply with their reporting conditions to police.
Police say there are currently no offenders in this category in WA.
Tier two would allow members of the public to provide their personal details and a postcode in order to access the pictures, but not names, of serious offenders on the register who reside in the same postcode or an adjoining postcode.
The Government says about 40 of the 2500 offenders on the national sex offenders register who live in WA would be on this register. Police would decide whose details are on the register.
Tier three would allow a parent or guardian who grants a person unsupervised access to their child for three or more hours a week to check if that person is on the register.
The plan has been criticised by the Police Union, who believe it will encourage vigilante action, and the deputy chair of the Prisoner Review Board, Murdoch Associate Professor of Criminology Guy Hall, who believes it will drive offenders who are already well managed under the existing national register underground.
“We believe this is right,” Mr Johnson said.
“We went to the election last time with a promise that we would introduce a register that would protect the sexual safety of our children, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.
“Once (Professor Hall) has seen the legislation he might have a different view, once it’s been debate in Parliament he might have a different view.
“Russell (Armstrong), who is a good friend of mine, hasn’t seen the legislation. I hope that when I explain it to him and once he’s seen the legislation and all the good points in there, he will be assured it’s a good thing.
“We are only talking about serious repeat offenders. It’s not somebody who’s committed one sexual offence against a child that would appear on that register. We’re talking about 40 of the worst, and they are repeat offenders.
“Don’t you think we should at least warn the public, parents and families to keep away from that person? Because I think we should and I think the majority of the public thinks we should.”
Mr Johnson claimed Police Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan supported the legislation.
A spokeswoman for Mr O’Callaghan said: “The Commissioner of Police supports any legislation that provides greater protection for children. However, it is not his policy to comment on the specifics of any legislation currently before State Parliament.”
Asked if he believed serious sexual offenders were not being appropriately managed under existing arrangements, Mr Johnson said: “Look, we have 2500 serious sex offenders on the (national) register who live in WA, there are 12,500 nationally. They have to report to police under their reporting conditions, which is fine. But you cannot guarantee they will be watched 24 hours a day, seven days a week by our police.”
“If anybody goes underground they face two years jail at the moment for breaching their reporting conditions and I will be announcing shortly that two years will go up to five years.“These people are serious sex offenders. If you want to stand up for their rights, fine. But the majority of West Australians stand up for the rights of our innocent children, not the rights of these serious sex offenders.”
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