Accounting for Law
Criminal

Risky plan to ID sex offenders: Neuberger

Making public the names of convicted child sex offenders could result in vigilante violence, criminal lawyer Joseph Neuberger tells AM640 News about a proposed public database.

Neuberger, senior partner at Neuberger & Partners LLP, pointed to a similar public registry system in the United States where some people have had trouble reintegrating or finding a home "without public ridicule or some sort of vigilantism.

"I can see this being a significant risk," says Neuberger. "I know the public may not care, but when these people are released from jail they need to be reintegrated into society, at least in a safe way. I'd like to think our community at large doesn't act that way, but there has been some data that when certain information is released about an individual they've experienced quite a bit of contact that wasn't very friendly."

Neuberger says he understands a balance needs to be struck, "but rather than making it public and leaving it up to the community to deal with, it is something that should be monitored by police or authorities (who can) better deal with it."

Neuberger says there is a logical argument that a database would help make families safer from child predators and high-risk offenders, but "if you look at the statistics, sadly, many of the horrific crimes that have occurred against children, including murder, were by people with no prior criminal offences." He says that the database will be limited in how much it will actually help make communities safer.

The proposed legislative changes also include new mandatory minimum sentences for certain child sex offences. Already controversial in other areas of criminal law, including gun and drug offences, Neuberger says by legislating mandatory minimums, it shows the government doesn't trust the judicial system to properly sentence people for their crimes.

"Judicial independence is very important," says Neuberger. "Sentencing has to be unique to the individual and in line with case law. They shouldn't undermine the independence of the judiciary because there are some cases where a mandatory minimum shouldn't be imposed. We need to have trust in our judiciary, they don't treat these things like a joke."

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