While there have long been calls for the register to be made public, this is not currently the case and there is no public register in any Australian jurisdiction.
That being so, you cannot jump onto a website to check if a person is on the sex offender database.
However, there are circumstances considered to be ‘exceptional’ whereby police may release such information to a particular person/s (such as an employer or landlord) or organisation (such as a school, childcare centre or other child-related organisations in proximity to the registered person) , either of their own accord or at the request of a member of the public.
The law in New South Wales
In New South Wales, the sex offenders registry is officially called the NSW Child Protection Registry, and it is legislated by the Child Protection (Offenders Registration) Act 2000.
This piece of legislation contains the rules relating to registration – including who is placed on the registered (known as registrable persons) and for how long – as well as the rights and responsibilities of those who are registered and those who access information contained on the register.
Are the Sex Offenders Register and the Child Protection Register the same?
The Child Protection Registry contains information about offenders who have been convicted of child sexual offences, as well as those convicted of many other offences, known as a whole as registrable offences.
Under the Act, there are two types of registrable offences.
Class 1 Offences, which include:
- Murder of a child,
- Any offence that involves sexual intercourse with a child, including outside of Australia, and
- Some offences of sexual abuse of a child, such as persistent sexual abuse.
The period for which a person with a Class 1 registrable offence is required to report is 15 years. This is known as the ‘reporting period’.
And Class 2 offences, which include:
- Causing serious harm to, a child
- Procuring or grooming a person under 16 for unlawful sexual activity
- Kidnapping or abduction
- Promoting or participating child prostitution or benefiting from it in any way
- Sexual offences and acts of indecency against children, including those that occurred overseas.
The reporting period for Class 2 registravle offences is 8 years.
If a person is convicted of multiple offences, the reporting period is 15 years and re-offenders must report for life.
Offenders must register within 7 days of being convicted.
The Act defines a child as a person under the age of 18 years.
The purpose of the Child Protection Register
The primary purpose of the register is two-fold: Firstly, to assist law enforcement agencies to monitor and manage the behaviour of convicted sex offenders – all law enforcement agencies can access the New South Wales database with a view to keeping communities safer from predators.
The New South Wales Police Force manages and maintains the database, which stores information such as the name, date of birth, address, and a photograph of the registered person, as well as the offence or offences for which the person was convicted.
While there has been a lot of discussion and debate amongst the politicians, to date, information on the Child Protection Register is sex offenders is not publicly available.
Can I access information on the sex offender database?
As stated, there may be exceptional circumstances in which police will release information about a registered person.
This is typically where police form the view the person poses a significant risk to another individual, a segment of the community such as children, or the community as a whole.
In such cases, police may notify a person or persons that they consider to be at risk, and/or notify selected organisations such as schools, childcare centres and other child-related organisations in geographical proximity to the registered person’s residence.
Individuals can only access information via a request to police, which is normally accompanied by legitimate and compelling reasons.
Those who will ordinarily make such a request include employers, landlords, and school / childcare administrators or parents who have significant concerns for the safety of children as a result of conduct by a particular individual.
The offence of disclosing information about a registered person
Section 21E of the Act makes it an offence punishable by up to two years in prison and/or 100 penalty units (equivalent to $11,000 at the time of writing) for a person to disclose any information relating to a registrable person obtained in connection with the Act, unless the disclosure:
- is made in connection with the administration or execution of this Act or a corresponding Act or for law enforcement purposes, or
- is made with the consent of the person to whom the information relates, or
- is ordered by a court, or any other body or person exercising judicial functions, for the purposes of the hearing or determination by the court, body or person of any matter, or
- is made with the consent of the Commissioner of Police given (either generally or in a particular case) for the purposes of ensuring the safety or protection of a child or of children generally, or
- is made to the Minister or with the consent of the Minister (given in a particular case), or
(f) is authorised or required by or under this Act or any other law.
The public’s right to know about sexual predators
While there has been a lot of discussion amongst the politicians, to date, sex offenders’ registers are not public. And there is no national database – registers are state-based.
This has led to fierce debate about the public’s right to know, but this ‘right to know’ also needs to be balanced with the rights of offenders. Those who have served their sentence and been released into the community are typically considered to have paid their debt to society, and should be left to get on with their lives.
Authorities point out that once on the sex offender’s register, these offenders are subject to strict conditions which can include regular monitoring by police, including monitoring of who they are associating with, and what activities they undertake on a daily basis – including online.
However, the fact of the matter is that sometimes sex offenders don’t rehabilitate and are not considered to be ‘safe’ members of the community and there have been instances where offenders have re-committed offences while on bail or while on parole.
The frustrations of not being able to easily and readily access information on the Child Protection Database has led to a number of organisations setting up their own independent websites which claim to have accurate and up to date information on child sex offenders and peadophiles, and people who have been convicted of offences harming children.
There was a NSW facebook page too, which was paused in 2022 and has not come back online.
While many people think these are a good resource in the absence of official public information, there are concerns that these website can inspire vigilantes and there is no guarantee that the information is accurate and up to date – and false allegations can ruin lives.
The NSW Child Protection Register
The rights of a person who is registered with the NSW Child Protection Register are contained in section 19B of the Act, and are as follows:
(1) If asked to do so by a registrable person, the Commissioner of Police must provide the person with a copy of all the reportable information that is held in the Register in relation to the person.
(2) The Commissioner of Police must comply with subsection (1) as soon as practicable after being asked to do so.
(3) A registrable person may ask the Commissioner of Police to amend any reportable information held on the Register in relation to the person that is incorrect.
(4) The Commissioner of Police must comply with such a request on being satisfied that the information is incorrect.
(5) In this section—
reportable information means any information supplied to the Commissioner of Police by, or on behalf of, the registrable person that the person is required to report to the Commissioner and that is still held in the Register.