: Daniel’s Law

Daniel’s Law

Sue Erickson
Northern Territory

The Sex Offender and Child Homicide Offender Public Website (Daniel’s Law) Bill was introduced in NT Parliament on 15 September 2015 and is due for debate in the November sittings of the Legislative Assembly, which begin on 17 November. Daniel’s Law provides for the publication of certain offenders’ personal details on a website that will be accessible by the public. The offender’s name, date of birth, details of the offence, photograph and location will be published on the website. A panel comprising the Commissioner of Police, the Commissioner of Correctional Services and the Chief Executive Officer of the Department of the Attorney-General and Justice will decide whether to publish the details of a certain offender. The panel’s decision is subject to a review process.

The Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, John Elferink, announced the legislation in October 2014 with Bruce and Denise Morcombe, explaining that the Act would be named ‘Daniel’s Law’ after the Morcombe’s son Daniel, who went missing on the Sunshine Coast in 2003 and was later found to have been murdered by a convicted sex offender who was on parole.

 

The Attorney-General indicated at the time the legislation was announced that the NT would develop its own law after a recent Council of Australian Governments meeting rejected the idea of a national sex offender register. The then-Premier of Queensland, Campbell Newman, indicated that Queensland would not support legislation that may encourage vigilantes against offenders. In May 2015, other jurisdictions indicated they would not provide information about offenders from the CrimTrac database (a database which enables the sharing of information about offenders between state police forces for policing purposes) for the website, meaning that the information for the website would have to be obtained and maintained manually by government staff reading through court and criminal records. Western Australia do have a register with similar information but there are limitations on what and how information may be accessed by the public.

Russell Goldflam, president of the NT Criminal Lawyers Association, has indicated that data after the introduction of similar laws in the United States (Megan’s Law) does not indicate that such registers reduce the number of sex offences — but rather shows that it makes it harder for offenders to rehabilitate and increases the possibility that they will reoffend. The NT Law Society has indicated it generally supports evidence-based policy, and also advised it was not consulted on the Bill before it was introduced.

Given that the Country Liberal Party is now in a minority government, after Speaker Kezia Purick’s resignation from the party in July 2015, the government will need support from the Opposition and independent members in order to pass the Bill. The members of the Opposition and the independent members have not yet indicated whether they will support the legislation but the Labor party and Kezia Purick have indicated that the proposed law will require serious consideration and consultation before the debate.

SUE ERICKSON is an Assistant Parliamentary Counsel for the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel, Northern Territory government.

(2015) 40(4) AltLJ 286
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