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Proposed Amendments to the Sex Offender Registry may breed Vigilante Justice

The High Risk Child Sex Offender Database Act, as presently proposed, comes well-equipped with a posse. The proposed amendments to the Sex Offender Registry Act to allow public access to the sex offender registry with respect to the names and locations of “high risk child sex offenders” serves no useful purpose other than to pander to Mr. Harper’s right wing constituency, and may create an environment in which communities display “most-wanted “posters warning “BEWARE: in your neighborhood resides a dangerous child sex offender”. What purpose can there be to this legislation other than to further vilify child sex offenders, encourage vigilante justice, further drive them underground, or, as in Miami, Florida, force them into a tent city under a freeway? This most hated criminal still has a right to live in your community, and there is cogent evidence that we can treat and control their behavior, not unlike paroled murderers living among us.

Canadian Criminal Code

Presently, there are a number of effective legal tools available that are designed to control anyone deemed by the courts to be at risk of committing a sex related offence against a child.  A private citizen, police officer, or crown attorney can ask a provincial court judge, under section 810.1 of the Criminal Code, to impose a peace bond (a court order to “keep the peace”), with conditions, on anyone, who, “on reasonable grounds” the person fears will commit essentially a sexual offence against anyone under the age of 16. The order can be for up to 12 months, and, if the defendant has previously been convicted of a sex related offence against a person under the age of 16, the judge may make the order for up to 24 months. Serious penalties for a violation of a condition of the peace bond include imposition of a jail term for up to two years.  There is no limitation on the number of times a judge can, with cause, renew the peace bond for a further time period.

Restrictions that can be imposed on a defendant subject to a peace bond may include conditions such as not being allowed near anyone under age 16, unless under the supervision of a person “whom the judge considers appropriate”. Other common conditions of a section 810.1 peace bond are that the defendant not be allowed at or near a community centre, public pool, park, or other places persons under 16 are present “or can reasonably be expected to be present”. Additionally, common conditions for sex offender crimes include abstaining from the use of alcohol and/or non- prescribed drugs, participating in a treatment program, remaining in a specified geographic area, and obeying a curfew. If necessary, the defendant can also be ordered to wear an electronic monitoring device to enable tracking of his whereabouts. Most police forces have an Offender Management Unit that keeps an eye on high-risk offenders and sex offenders to ensure they are complying with any court-ordered conditions.

The Criminal Code (Section 161) also allows for the imposition of some of the above contact prohibitions on an accused convicted of a child sex crime. The conditions can be imposed for up to life. Penalties for violation are the same as with respect to a violation of a Section 810.1 peace bond.

Sex Offender Treatment and Rehabilitation Programs    Sex Offender Registry Canada

Effective protection of the public also exists, even with respect to accused persons deemed dangerous child sex offenders. A medium to high-risk child sex offender, who can be treated in the community, can be designated a “long term offender” and, after serving his sentence, will be subject to supervision and treatment in the community for 10 years.

Dr John Bradford an eminent Forensic Psychiatrist at the Royal Ottawa Hospital heads the hospital’s sex offender treatment program. He has told a House of Commons committee that pedophilia is a mental disorder that is treatable, and that there is a very low recidivism rate among his treatment population, especially versus the non-treated population. His belief is that with proper treatment and counselling, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, a sex offender or pedophile can substitute appropriate sexual desires for the deviant thoughts that drive sexually assaultive behavior. Successful candidates can function normally in the population. If we add supervision in the community to this equation, we have a scenario where the public is better protected than if we drive the child sex offender to a place where they cannot be properly treated and integrated into society.

So, why would we want to further vilify sex offenders and drive them to live under expressways, as is mandated in Florida when we can get to the root of criminal behavior and accomplish the ultimate goal with an offender: rehabilitation?  This, in the end, will result in us living in a safer and more compassionate society.

Extensive Experience and Viable Options

The Criminal Law Team has extensive experience representing persons charged with sex related offences, including child sex offences such as possession, access, and distribution of child pornography, sexual interference, and invitation to sexual touching..  We are intimately aware of the potential penalties and restrictions that can be imposed on the liberty of the subject both while on bail and post-sentence.  We have access to the best forensic psychiatrists and psychologists to assist the defence in preparing a viable option that includes assessment, treatment, followed by integration into the community. We also will resist any attempts at violation of our clients’ right to privacy through the publication of their names, addresses, etc. Action may include constitutional challenges to the proposed legislation, and/or a vigorous defence of the charges, if we determine the case against our client cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

Mr. Harper: most wanted: sensible laws; least wanted: political posturing.

 

 

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