Monday 18 December 2023

A glaring loophole in Victoria’s sex offender registration laws must be fixed without delay.

The case of Stewart Carter, a victim-survivor of historic child sexual assault, has demonstrated that the Sex Offenders Registration Act 2004 is not keeping Victorians safe.

Mr Carter has bravely advocated for changes to the legislation following his own experience which saw the perpetrator sentenced to three years imprisonment, only to have the sentence suspended in full.

He has also identified that section 12 of the Act enables a convicted sex offender to avoid its operation where they enter Victoria from a foreign jurisdiction and do not remain in Victoria for 14 or more consecutive days following conviction.

The practical effect of this is to enable some convicted sexual predators to avoid the effect of being on the Register, putting communities at risk.

Shadow Attorney-General, Michael O’Brien, said: “The Opposition stands ready to work with the Government to address this matter, but if Labor won’t act then the Liberals and Nationals will introduce a Private Member’s bill to fix the loophole.”

Mr Carter’s case also highlights the continued use of suspended sentences in historic sexual offence cases.

The former Liberals and Nationals government abolished the use of suspended sentences in recognition that jail should mean jail. However, historic charges are sentenced under the sentencing provisions that operated at the time of the offending, not the time of conviction.

Mr O’Brien said: “With jurisdictions, notably New South Wales, moving to apply current sentencing practices to historic sexual offences, it is important that Victoria seriously review these practices as a matter of urgency.

Member for North-Eastern Metropolitan Region, Nick McGowan, said: “I’ve known Stewart since we were at school together and while the justice system has let him down, his courage to advocate for change must not go unheeded.”