The ‘Serious Sex Offenders Act’ enables the Attorney General to apply for ‘continuing detention orders’ to keep ‘serious sex offenders’ in custody beyond their prison terms.
It thereby undermines the certainty of a person’s prison sentence and takes power away from the courts, placing it in the hands of the government of the day.
This is extremely dangerous because it means that media pressures or community outrage can decide whether a person’s prison sentence is extended, rather than sentences being determined by an independent court system that has properly considered the case.
The Act also enables the Attorney General to make applications to continue the supervision of ‘serious sex offenders’ beyond the expiry of their parole periods, which also undermines the certainty of the sentencing process and thereby the power of an independent judiciary.
Another concern is that a person cannot apply for legal costs or take legal action even if the Attorney General’s application had no basis at all, regardless of whether the person’s reputation was defamed through a frivolous, vexatious or entirely politically-motivated application.
In practice, the Act allows the government to retrospectively sentence particular ‘serious sex offenders’ to ‘win political points’, despite that person having done nothing at all wrong in prison.
Criminal lawyers have therefore been extremely critical of the act, including Pauline Wright of the NSW Law Society’s criminal law committee who calls it ‘completely inappropriate to punish someone for something they might do in the future’.
She says ‘you don’t punish someone unless they’ve done something wrong and that is proven beyond a reasonable doubt’ and ‘It could have really serious effects’.
Click on a link below to read the provisions of the ‘Serious Sex Offenders Act’.