Posted on 01. Dec, 2011 in Speeches

Mr LIM (Clayton) — I rise to make a contribution on the Serious Sex Offenders (Detention and Supervision) Amendment Bill 2011. This bill could have been much more. Although the opposition does not oppose the bill, a lot more could have been built into the bill to make it more meaningful for the community. As the minister said in his second reading speech, the bill makes a number of technical amendments to the Serious Sex Offenders (Detention and Supervision) Act 2009. Herein lies the problem. The bill does nothing to increase victims’ rights or to provide the community with more information about serious sex offenders. I will say more about that in a moment, but first I will mention the key features of the bill, which several members have already gone through.
Clause 4 modifies interim supervision orders by amending section 58 of the Serious Sex Offenders (Detention and Supervision) Act 2009. Clause 7 amends section 67 of the principal act to provide that a periodic review is not required if the offender is in custody. Clause 12 of the bill allows Victoria Police to dispense with the notification period when acting on serious breaches of supervision orders. Clause 13 broadens the scope for the sharing of information between agencies. As members can see, there is nothing in the bill about empowering victims and the community.
I now want to turn to one of the most serious and tragic sexual assault cases possible. I refer to the case of 73 year old grandmother Marie Zidan, who was sodomised, raped and strangled in 2000 by two offenders who were aged 15 and 16 at the time. These two murderers and rapists are now free in the community. Recently an application was made by the Director of Public Prosecutions to the Supreme Court to lift a suppression order so that an application could be made to the Children’s Court to reveal their names. As the prosecutor, Daryl Brown, told the court on behalf of the DPP, ‘It’s the public’s right to know their identity’. However, this application failed, and it was always going to fail because of the law as it currently stands.
I know that the Minister for Corrections, the minister who introduced this bill, previously took a different position on this matter. The minister could have easily included a provision in this bill that was consistent with the position he took when he was in opposition. I refer to a report in the Herald Sun of 6 January 2007 headed ‘Outrage over killer’s rights’, which says:
Acting shadow Attorney General Andrew McIntosh said the onus should be on children accused of homicide or rape to convince a judge their case and identity should not be openly reported, not the other way around.
So much for being tough on crime. If the minister were fair dinkum and if he really believed what he was quoted as saying in 2007, then he could have dealt with it in this bill. If he believed the community’s right to know overrides the legal principle of not disclosing child offenders’ names, especially when it comes to serious sexual offences, then he could have got it through this Parliament, as his party has a majority in both houses.
The other matter which the Minister for Corrections has failed to deal with concerns the extent to which local communities should be informed about the housing of serious sex offenders in their neighbourhoods. The minister referred to Corella Place as providing transitional housing for up to 40 serious sex offenders. That is certainly true. Some of these offenders come from prison or a secure forensic psychiatric unit such as the Thomas Embling Hospital in Fairfield. Corella Place was built adjacent to the Ararat Prison and has a high degree of supervision. However, as the minister said, Corella Place is transitional. What the minister did not canvass is where serious sex offenders will go after Corella Place. He did not say whose neighbourhood they will live in.
The Liberal Party pretends to put the community before offenders and carries on parading itself as tough on crime, even if it impacts on their rehabilitation. However, the minister is strangely silent on whether local communities will be told about offenders being housed in their neighbourhood. The minister is right: this is just a technical bill. He has wimped out on the opportunity to deal with the complex issue of the community’s right to know versus the rehabilitation of the offender. The government will be judged accordingly — that is, on whether it is really tough on crime or whether it was just parading itself for the sake of winning the state election last November. I rest my case.


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