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Hetty Johnston demands introduction of Sarah’s Law as Blue Card System “doesn’t go far enough”

MEDIA RELEASE
For immediate release
16 May, 2019

Independent Senate candidate Hetty Johnston has declared she will fight for the nationwide adoption of Sarah’s Law, the UK scheme that forces police to tell parents, carers and guardians if someone in their lives has a criminal record for child sexual offences.

With the Queensland Government today expected to pass a Bill strengthening its Blue Card System, which monitors people working with children and young children, Ms Johnston said there was a desperate need for another tool to ensure parents can identify potential threats to their children.

Sarah’s Law was introduced in the UK in the early 2000s after the murder of eight-year-old Sarah Payne and allows caregivers to ask police to check if a person has a record for child sexual offences or other offences that might put their child at risk.

“The Blue Card System is valuable but it doesn’t go far enough because it only protects children from perpetrators who are in jobs that expose them to young people,” Ms Johnston said.

“We know 85-90 per cent of child sex offenders are known and trusted to their victim’s families and Australian parents and carers have the right to know if people in their lives pose a danger to their children or themselves.

“That’s why I’m calling for the introduction of a nationwide scheme that would ensure they can ring police and find out if the person they are going to marry, move in with or is spending time with their children is a threat.

“We cannot have police closeting this information and heaven forbid we have to wait for a tragedy such as the murder of little Sarah Payne before the major parties finally commit to a scheme that has proven a success in the UK.”

Hundreds of disclosures of paedophiles have been made across England, Wales and Scotland since Sarah’s Law was introduced, with the information only provided to the person making the enquiry and on agreement they keep it confidential.

Ms Johnston also reiterated her disgust at the Federal Government’s recent commitment to “waste” $7.8 million of Budget funding on a flawed National Child Sex Offenders Register that will fail young lives.

“Peter Dutton threw out the words ‘child sex offenders register’ because he knew people would think ‘that sounds great’ but his proposed model simply does not work,” she said.

“There is no research anywhere in the world that supports that model and, worse still, it gives people a false sense of security.

“We’re experts in this field and we firmly support the introduction of Sarah’s Law, a policy based on common sense rather than trying to win a few votes on the back of children.

“Their funding commitment is also a drop in the ocean when it has been shown child sexual abuse costs the Australian economy $11.4 billion each year and even that is a conservative figure given the latest research suggests it is closer $30 billion.

“Surely it’s time to stop dealing with the financial cost of child sexual abuse after it has happened by putting more money into prevention tools that work such as Sarah’s Law.”

Once elected, Ms Johnston will also advocate for a Royal Commission into the “dysfunctional” family law system and the nationwide introduction of Child Advocacy Centres that present courts with multidisciplinary assessments of parents and children involved in child sexual assault claims.

“For too long the Government and Opposition have lacked the courage to take the decisive action that is required to make Australia a safer country to raise children,” she said.

“Protecting our society’s most vulnerable souls has been my life’s passion and in a couple of days Australian voters will have the chance to give me the platform I need to finally hold our politicians to account on what is a national emergency.”

ENDS

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