'Jessica's Law' protecting rapists and paedophiles
LAWS intended to protect victims are instead being used to shield dozens of Victoria's worst sex offenders.
Rapists' and paedophiles' identities and whereabouts are routinely being shrouded in secrecy as courts decide if they should be freed.
More than half of 62 offenders under post-sentence supervision orders are living anonymously among us rather than in a purpose-built compound outside Ararat Jail.
The names of 28 of 30 put under supervision orders by the County Court in the past 18 months have been suppressed - supposedly in the public interest.
The rape victim whose horrific ordeal prompted the creation of the Serious Sex Offenders (Detention and Supervision) Act said yesterday it protected the wrong people.
Jessica, a young Ballarat mother, was abducted at knifepoint, held captive for 29 hours, and repeatedly raped by a serial offender with three previous rape convictions.
She told the Herald Sun she felt let down by how courts were using "Jessica's Law" to conceal offenders' identities.
Victoria's Serious Sex Offenders (Detention and Supervision) Act 2009 allows a court to order high-risk offenders be detained for up to three years after their jail sentence ends, or be strictly supervised for up to 15 years. An amendment, included without public consultation, made all evidence in such cases secret.
Laws that took effect last year ban reporting of anything said in supervision hearings.
"I don't understand how exactly that's supposed to protect victims," Jessica said.
Seven sex offenders under supervision orders have returned to court in the past 12 months for breaching conditions of those orders.
One of the state's most infamous paedophiles could soon be freed without supervision. But the Herald Sun will be unable to report the reasons for any court decision, or who he is or where he will be living.
A child protection group said silence and secrecy were "a paedophile's best friend and a child's worst enemy".
Bravehearts executive director Hetty Johnston said it was nonsense to suggest suppression was needed to protect offenders or victims.
"That legislation does nothing except put children at risk," she said.
Under the old laws, the Herald Sun was able to report that experts wanted notorious paedophile Brian Keith Jones, "Mr Baldy", to roam free to see if he'd attack again - even though he was considered a 54 per cent chance to reoffend within 15 years. Under the new Act, such information could not have been published.
A month before the law changed, a Supreme Court judge ruled it was in the public interest that serious sex offender cases be fully reported, despite a psychiatrist's evidence that publicity might affect a sex offender's treatment.
The former government argued the secrecy was to stop victims being named, but publication of victims' identities has been prohibited since 1958.
Before last year's election, current Corrections Minister Andrew McIntosh said he was "appalled" by the laws.
But last week, his spokesman told the Herald Sun it was "a matter for the court".
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Herald Sun 4-7-2011
Elissa Hunt, Geoff Wilkinson