Hetty Johnston calls for new Federal powers to tackle child sex offendersHetty Johnston
4 April, 2019
Independent Senate candidate Hetty Johnston is campaigning for a new Federal sentencing regime to ensure repeat child sex offenders receive mandatory life sentences.
Ms Johnston, who founded child protection organisation Bravehearts in 1997, said she had received legal advice that confirmed State Governments could cede power to the Commonwealth for dealing with repeat child sex offenders, as happens with terrorists and online sex offenders.
She said the new arrangement would allow police to charge repeat child sex offenders under Federal legislation to achieve stronger sentences.
“As with terrorists, child sex offenders represent the greatest direct threat to the safety and wellbeing of Australians and specifically children, regardless of what state or territory they commit their crimes,” Ms Johnston said.
“Normal, decent Australians do not want to share their communities with these predators, let alone repeat offenders, and that’s why we need stronger legislation to ensure punishments that prioritise the safety of children.
“We know child sex offenders move across state borders to avoid detection and that judicial outcomes vary from state to state.
“That is no longer good enough and, if elected, I will be pushing for the introduction of new Commonwealth laws that deal with repeat child sex offenders as decisively as they do with terrorists.”
Ms Johnston’s call for new legislation follows her blistering rejection of the Federal Government’s decision to “waste” $7.8 million of Budget funding on a flawed National Child Sex Offenders Register.
Singling out the plan’s architect, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, she said the proposed register was not even supported by former Liberal Prime Minister Tony Abbott who previously dismissed it.
“The sex offender register model proposed has been proven to be ineffective. It only captures a small number of child sex offenders, it does nothing to protect children against almost all offenders who pose a known and unknown risk.
“It’s promising that Mr Dutton has money to spend in relation to child sex offenders but he needs to listen to the community and read the research,” Ms Johnston said.
“We encourage Mr Dutton to instead rollout the proven, effective WA model across the nation. The WA model is a hybrid of the effective aspects of the USA Megan’s Law and UK Sarah’s Law.”
Ms Johnston said this includes a public register but also an ability for members of the public to call the police directly and receive information about people who pose a direct risk to their children.
“This responds effectively to the reality of child sex offenders in that they are almost always, 85 -95 per cent known and trusted to the family. They are not always the stranger down the road who, if dangerous, should be detained for life under the new Federal jurisdiction that I propose.
“If these people are so dangerous that we need to spend $7.8 million of taxpayers’ dollars to tell us what suburb they live in, they shouldn’t even be on our streets.
“There is no research anywhere in the world that says the proposed model works. This money should be used to support States in managing the cost of achieving life sentences for repeat offenders while moving to a new Commonwealth suite of laws. Dangerous sex offenders need to kept away from children and currently the only place that is possible is prison.”
Ms Johnston also urged the Federal Government to adopt Western Australia’s child sex offender register model, which encompasses the United Kingdom’s ‘Sarah’s Law’ that allows the community to contact police if they are concerned about a person in their child’s life.
“This system actually goes to the heart of protecting Australia’s children because it means parents and carers can ask the police to check if a person who is spending time with their children is a known threat to them,” she said.
“They don’t need to be a registered child sex offender but simply anyone with a criminal history that poses a risk to children.”