Sex offender register’s 36-hour consultation period ‘absurd,’ Law Council says

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The Law Council of Australia has called the short consultation period for the proposed National Public Register of Sex Offenders “absurd.”

On Wednesday, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton announced the plan to launch the register. The council has been given until close-of-business on Friday to provide “initial high-level views” on the plan.

“A consultation period of 36 hours to provide views on such a complex and serious proposal is inappropriate and completely inadequate,” said Arthur Moses SC, Law Council president.  “The Law Council calls on the federal government to allow more time for initial consultation because unconsidered, rushed policy will lead to bad legislation.”

He said that a “proper proposal” is needed before a measured consultation, which the Law Council views as crucial before any law is made, can occur.

“Otherwise there is a real risk of the register not protecting the community and it may have myriad unintended consequences,” Moses said. “The legal profession would be very troubled if this issue is being rushed for political purposes rather than considered reform. Politicising this issue or rushing it through without proper thought would be an affront to all victims of sexual abuse. Furthermore, a range of parties including the victims of sex offenders need to be heard on this issue to ascertain what, if any register, should be developed.”

Political leaders are expected by the public to craft effective policies based on evidence, the Law Council president said.

“As I said when the proposed register was announced, the Law Council does not, in principle, object to its establishment. However, it must be proportionate and effective,” Moses said.

The Law Council firmly believes that only offenders who pose a demonstrated risk to children should be placed on a register by order of a court.

“Child sex offending is heinous and debates on these matters are highly emotive. Despite many strong views on the issue though, the rule of law must always be respected,” Moses said. “This requires adequate consultation with key stakeholders – and 36 hours is certainly not adequate.”