In April 2011, the Attorney-General asked the Commission to review laws governing the registration of sex offenders and the use of information about registered sex offenders by law enforcement and child protection agencies.
The Victorian Ombudsman had recommended this review in a report to Parliament about problems with the management of the sex offenders' registration scheme.
The purpose of the review was to ensure that the legislative arrangements for the collection and use of information about registered sex offenders enable law enforcement and child protection agencies to assess the risk of re-offending, prevent further offences, and protect children from harm.
In June 2011, the Commission released an information paper that described the operation of Victoria's sex offender registration system and asked questions about how it could be improved.
The final report was tabled in Parliament on 18 April 2012. It contained 79 recommendations to strengthen the registration scheme by sharpening its focus on the protection of children. The recommendations aimed to enable police to better manage offenders who could pose a risk of harm to children and to provide child protection authorities with timely information about children who might be at risk.
The report and other documents can be downloaded from the links below.
The Sex Offenders Registration Amendment Act 2014 implements or partially implements 8 of the Commission’s 79 reform recommendations.
In summary, the recommendations were to:
- Give the Court the power to modify reporting conditions and obligations imposed on registered offenders who are under the age of 18 (Recommendation 19; see s 5)
- Allow the Chief Commissioner to suspend the reporting obligations of a person who is unable to comply because of physical or cognitive impairment (Recommendation 26; Note the Act allows a broader discretion in view of the risk to the sexual safety of the person or the community See s 45A).
- Registered sex offenders should be required to report the names, ages and addresses of any children with whom they have ‘contact’ and the means of contacting those children (Recommendation 41 ; See s 6(1))
- Clarify which ‘contact’ a registered sex offender must report (Recommendation 32; s4A and see also s 7(1)(4)-removal of reference to ‘unsupervised contact’ and s 23).
- Provide clear legislative authority to the Chief Commissioner of Police and the Secretaries of the Department of Justice and Regulation and Department of Human Services to share information (Recommendations 55-56; See s 42B and s 42C)
- Allow information about a registered offender to be given to a parent or carer to protect a particular child (Recommendation 57-59). The Act empowers the Secretary of DHS or an ‘authorised person’ to disclose information ‘to any other person’ if disclosure is ‘in the interests of the safety and wellbeing of the child referred to in the information’ (s 42D). Disclosure is not restricted to a guardian but the information has to concern an identified child.)
The Commission’s recommendation on discretionary (instead of automatic) registration was endorsed by the Victorian Parliamentary Law Reform Committee in its report Inquiry into Sexting, tabled in May 2013. That report recommended introducing a defence to certain sex offences and a more targeted offence aimed at prohibiting the distributing of intimate images without consent. In the alternative, the report endorsed the Commission’s recommendation that sex offender registration be discretionary only, to prevent inappropriate registration, particularly of young people.
In September 2014 the Victorian Parliament passed amendments to the Crimes Act 1958 and the Summary Offences Act 1966 that change the law about sexting. The laws create two new offences of ‘distribution of an intimate image’ and ‘threat to distribute an intimate image’. The new laws also introduce certain exceptions to child pornography offences so that young people under 18 years of age are not inappropriately prosecuted or added to the sex offenders register for consensual non-exploitative sexting.