Queensland sex offenders free to roam streets
Three thousand sex monsters are free to prowl neighbourhoods as the Palaszczuk government keeps parents in the dark about paedophiles living in Queensland suburbs.
Neighbours must be told by law if there's a dangerous dog in a nearby yard - yet human predators posing a grave danger to children are using privacy protections to hide in plain sight.
As sex crimes against innocent children soar under the cover of COVID-19 lockdowns,
The Courier Mail is calling on all state and territory governments to sign up to a national register of Australia's 20,000 convicted sex offenders.
Queensland has 3850 sex criminals on its secret police register, with 836 of them in jail and 3014 living in the community.
Child exploitation reports to the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation have soared 50 per cent to 21,000 in the past year.
The nation's Child Safety departments substantiated 4714 cases of child sexual abuse last year, when nearly 27,000 Australians were sexually assaulted - an all-time record.
Bruce Morcombe, the grieving father whose 13-year-old son Daniel was abducted and murdered by a paedophile while waiting for a bus on the Sunshine Coast in 2003, is demanding a "Daniel's Law" to alert the public to sex offenders living nearby.
"It would have made a difference in terms of educating Daniel and our other boys that predators did live in our neighbourhood,'' Mr Morcombe said yesterday.
"It also would make a difference in terms of a deterrent - if the worst of the worst know they're on a publicly accessible register, they're a lot less likely to commit a premeditated offence.
"Convicted paedophiles are operating under a shroud of secrecy. "At the moment we are too focused on protecting past offenders, and not enough work is being done to protect kids. "Kids come first.''
The Australian Federal Police, who arrested 161 Australians on child sex offence charges last financial year, refused to comment on the need for a national register.
"There is a lot of child abuse going on in the community today, and a lot of it is facilitated through technology,'' AFP forensics co-ordinator Nathan Green said yesterday.
"Statistically, everybody would know somebody. There's no group that is immune for either offenders or victims. "There's no socio-economic group, there's no defining characteristic, it's every walk of life.''
FACES OF EVIL
These are some of the faces of evil, their faces blocked out due to laws that keep their identity and location secret. They include rapists, child molesters and child pornography addicts whose perverted fantasies fuel an underground industry based on the sexual exploitation of children.
A defiant Queensland Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath yesterday warned of "unintended consequences'' of letting the public access the police register.
"This includes an increased risk of reoffending due to the likelihood that offenders would be driven underground,'' she said.
"In Western Australia, which has an online high risk sex offenders register, there are currently 16 sex offenders listed as missing - dangerous offenders with whom authorities have lost contact.
"Queensland already has the strongest child sex offender regime in the country and we'll continue to work with all jurisdictions to tackle child sex offending and keep our kids safe."
Queensland Opposition leader Deb Frecklington vowed to make the register public if the LNP wins office this year. "These monsters don't deserve a second chance,'' she said.
"Every parent has a right to know if there is a paedophile in their suburb, in their street or living next door.
"The LNP is absolutely committed to introducing a child sex offender register because we believe keeping our kids safe is more important than protecting the identity of vile sex pests.
"If they want to stay off the register, then don't rape kids."
Mr Morcombe said he opposed vigilante attacks on offenders, but felt parents had a right to access photos of paedophiles living nearby.
He said sex offenders should not be exposed if this would reveal the identity of their victims.
Federal Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton handed the states and territories $7.8 million in last year's federal budget to set up a National Public Register of Sex Offenders to let Australians view names, aliases and photos of paedophiles, along with their general location and the nature of their crimes.
More than a year later, Western Australia is the only state that gives the public access to its police register of sex offenders.
Anyone can apply to see photos of convicted sex offenders living in their suburb, or adjoining suburbs - although names and addresses are kept secret to prevent vigilante attacks.
Single parents can ask police to check on a new partner, while parents can seek background checks on babysitters.
Mr Dutton yesterday said the federal government was "at war with sex offenders''.
"It's time that other state and territory leaders show where they stand,'' he said.
"A national system such as this would have a very strong deterrent effect on offenders and ensure that parents are not in the dark about whether a registered sex offender is living in their community.''
WHAT WE WANT For the price of a pack of cigarettes, Australian child predators are paying to watch live-stream videos of little kids being raped in The Philippines.
No crime is crueller than the sexual abuse of children.
Australia has some 20,000 convicted sex offenders living in the community.
They include rapists, child molesters and child pornography addicts whose perverted fantasies fuel an underground industry based on the sexual exploitation of children.
They don't all look like the stereotype of a dirty old man in an overcoat.
Paedophiles might look like a clean-cut middle-aged businessman, a young fitness instructor, or a knockabout tradie. One could be living in your street - but unless you live in Western Australia you'll never know, because state and territory laws prioritise the privacy of predators over the safety of innocent children.
Today News Corp Australia is launching a campaign for a national register of sex offenders, accessible to the public under strict conditions.
We do not condone vigilante action against sex offenders.
But we do believe you have the right to know if a dangerous sex offender is living in your neighborhood, dating your daughter or babysitting your kids.
Paedophiles will try to get close to children, and are masters of manipulation.
Across most of Australia, owners of dangerous dogs must display a warning sign on the front gate.
Why are dogs deemed more dangerous than convicted sex offenders?
Mr Morcombe said he was "greatly disappointed'' that states were denying parents and children the right to know if predators were living nearby.
"Parents and carers need the ability to check the number of offenders against kids in a geographical area - perhaps the kids' school or their grandma's house,'' he said. "
Maybe their daughter is a single mum who's going out with someone new, or their elderly parents are looking at putting on a boarder.
"It is a simple test to see if that person has a history of offending against children.
"We've got to protect our kids.'' Mr Morcombe said the public was alerted to dangerous dogs through signs on gates, and to crocodiles in creeks.
"That does not mean you're going to slit the throat of every crocodile you see sunbaking on a sandbank,'' he said. "It's a warning sign to be aware.''
Law Society of Australia president Pauline Wright said any register must be accurate.
"(It must not) lead to the potential for vigilante attacks, mistaken identity, or the risk of offenders going into hiding, which would make it harder to supervise them when released,'' she said.
Ms Wright warned that exposing predators might inadvertently reveal the identities of victims.
"Publication may impact a victim's right to privacy and compound the already significant trauma, embarrassment, and distress suffered,'' she said.
More than 1800 people have signed a petition by federal MP for Ryan, Julian Simmonds, to establish the national register.
"It's not a call to vigilantism because it doesn't show exactly where they're living,'' Mr Simmonds said.
"Parents deserve to know information about people who have been convicted of child exploitation and the most hideous crimes imaginable against children.''
HOW WESTERN AUSTRALIA'S PUBLIC REGISTER WORKS
AUSTRALIA's only public register of paedophiles has been checked by 677,000 people since it was set up in Western Australia in 2014.
The WA Community Protection website alerts people to the state's most dangerous and high risk sexual offenders.
Parents and guardians can ask WA Police to check the criminal history of any person who has regular unsupervised contact with their child.
Single parents can check if someone they're dating has a criminal record for sex offences.
Divorced parents can even ask police to tell them if their ex-partner's new boyfriend or girlfriend has a history of child abuse.
Parents and guardians just need to fill in an online form asking police to check the name of anyone who has regular contact with their children.
Police send back a "yes" or "no" response, but cannot provide details of the conviction.
Only adult offenders are listed on the Community Protection website.
It shows photos and personal details of all offenders who have gone missing, failed to comply with their reporting obligations, or given false information to police.
Members of the public can type in their driver's licence details to check for photos of offenders living in their suburb, and all adjoining suburbs, although names and addresses are not released.
The disclosure scheme also lets a parent or guardian of a child inquire about a specific person who has regular contact with their child.
All applications are processed online, and anyone who uses the information to distribute the photos or "engage in any conduct that will create, promote or increase animosity toward or harassment'' of the offender risks 10 years in jail.
Applicants cannot search for offender photographs in other localities.
The executive manager of the Sex Offender Registry, Martyn Clancy-Lowe, yesterday said 677,000 people had accessed the register since it was established.
He said there had only been a handful of reports of harassment or stalking of offenders, and action had been taken against anyone who posted photos on social media or distributed posters.
WA Police Minister Michelle Roberts said the register was "the most valuable tool used by police forces around Australia to monitor child sex offenders''.
"I want to reiterate to the public, and parents in particular, that most child sex offenders are known to victims,'' she said.
"So parents must always be vigilant in protecting their children.''
Originally published as Sex monsters: Tasmanian creeps free to roam streets