'Name and Shame' Law on Cards in Victoria

By Melissa Jenkins
9 News
February 29, 2012

[with video]

The Victorian government will urgently consider repealing a law protecting the identities of child sex offenders.

But there are concerns such a change would increase the number of children harmed and encourage vigilante behaviour.

An inquiry headed by former Supreme Court judge Philip Cummins has made 90 recommendations to reform the state's child protection system.

One of the most controversial, supported by a majority of the inquiry panel, is to repeal parts of the law relating to serious sex offenders that allows courts to suppress their names.

Premier Ted Baillieu says the government will seek advice from Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Ken Lay and other justice officials about the recommendation and consider the experience in other jurisdictions.

"The government will be urgently seeking advice to deal with this matter," he told parliament on Wednesday.

"The interests of children will take priority and do take priority for this government.

"Protecting children, families and the wider community is this government's first priority."

The premier's announcement followed Community Services Minister Mary Wooldridge saying on radio earlier on Wednesday that while she had personal sympathy for the recommendation, pedophiles' rights had to be considered.

"We have to balance the rights of children and families also with ... the rights of pedophiles," she told Fairfax Radio.

"If they have completed the sentence they have a right to then live in the community.

"There is a lot of concern about naming and shaming and the lynch mobs."

She later told parliament the rights of a child were always paramount.

Law Institute of Victoria president Michael Holcroft said the focus must be to protect people from those posing the greatest threat.

"Name and shame is not the way to do this," he said.

Mr Holcroft said suppression orders were sometimes used to protect the victim's identity and offenders were often known to their victims.

"We would not want to see (a) victim decide not to come forward because the crimes perpetrated against them may become public knowledge," he said.

Being publicly associated with crime makes it difficult for sex offenders to get a job and accommodation, have social interactions and could make them the target of mob violence, Mr Holcroft said.

"Driven underground, they are more likely to reoffend," he said.

"Identifying child sexual offenders has the potential to hurt even more children."

Publicly outing child sex offenders could lead to mob violence, Mr Holcroft said.

Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews said he was open to the idea child sex offenders being named but supported a measured approach.

"However it is a complex issue ... it's not a yes or no for me," he told reporters.


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