NT Attorney-General Reviving Online Child Sex Offender Registry Despite Widespread Criticism

27/01/2016 10:19 PM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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The Northern Territory Attorney-General is hoping to revive the public child sex offender registry, despite the legislation attracting widespread criticism when it was first introduced in 2014.

The department will be holding public forums to provide information about the registry and gather queries from citizens in the state.

The registry -- named after Daniel Morcombe who was murdered by Brett Peter Cowan in 2003 -- will be a public website providing the name, date of birth, offences and "general location" of child sex offenders and child homicide offenders, according to a media release from the department on Wednesday.

The first public forum will be held in Darwin's city centre on Friday from 2pm at the Energy House. Other forums will also be held in Katherine, Nhulunbuy, Tennant Creek and Alice Springs in the next week, with the department urging locals to attend, ask questions and provide feedback.

Criminal law firms and rehabilitation specialists have publicly criticised the proposed registry. Dr Katie Seidler told The Huffington Post Australia the move could even increase the risk of offenders re-offending, suggesting the funds would be better spent on rehabilitation services.

"It’s actually quite a disastrous impact and one that could quite potentially serve to increase their risk on two levels. One is because it often forces [past offenders] underground and drives them into contact with one another, because they might be the only people they can relate to or don’t vilify them," Dr. Siedler, a clinical forensic psychologist, told the Huffington Post Australia.

"The second part is that it often makes it difficult for them to form relationships with people, make friends, get jobs, secure housing; all those things that humans need to participate in society in the 21st century.

"If they have availability of best practice specialist treatment services, we can actually reduce the risk of re-offending to up to 50 per cent. These are significant numbers when the reality is that 80 per cent of child sex offenders will never go on to re-offend."

Attorney-General John Elferink originally introduced legislation in 2014 but delayed the website's launch to conduct “further consultations”. The delay coincided with the CLP needing an independent MP -- who had publicly opposed the registry -- to vote against a no confidence motion.

Elferink said in 2014 the introduction of Daniel's Law "represents this Government's ongoing commitment to protect those who are vulnerable in our community and putting victims first."

A spokeswoman from the Northern Territory Department of the Attorney-General and Justice told HuffPost Australia "the reason we are holding these public meetings is to get feedback from the public – both critical and supportive – of the legislation and its implications."

"The Government is committed to undertaking public consultation on the legislation before making any decisions about if and when to introduce a bill."

The department introduced state legislation after a national public child sex offender registry was dismissed in a 2014 COAG meeting. Western Australia is the only other state with an online sex offender registry. However, it has strict access limitations, with only the most serious and repeat offenders listed.

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