Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Sarah, Megan and NZ

Sarah's Law for NZ? We need to think carefully about this.

Right now anyone with routine unsupervised access to your children are already subject to police checks. For instances, teachers must submit to a police check to be registered and again when they apply for work. A criminal conviction of any kind disqualifies you. If you want to hire someone privately, you can always ask them to provide permission for the police to disclose their criminal record ... if they refuse permission, don't hire them. Beyond that it gets a bit silly -- what right have we to go prying into random stranger's history?

There is another sensibility of course - perhaps we can feel that paedophiles have committed such a horrible offence that there can be no trust again, ever. There is a substantial literature on this subject. A review of the serious ones show a general agreement that about 20% of those convicted go on to do it again. There are studies that put the repeat rate over 60%, but these are based on guesswork. It is important to get this right because is it repeat offending that is targeted bvy this kind of law. But perhaps the crime is so serious that we can afford to victimizing the genuinely reformed 80% to keep the remaining under a watchful eye. Their locations should be in a database and available to the public, and their movements tracked, effectively sentencing them to life-time home detention at the least. This would be a severe punishment, but it's a severe crime. Until we can think of something better, perhaps we should make an exception to our normal jurisprudence in these cases, after all, their victims didn't have their civil rights?

OK so you're a convicted paedophile and you've done your time, had therapy, and you want to just live a blameless life now. This kind of law makes it difficult for you to live in one place for long. You get your windows broken a lot. Well boo hoo cry me a river, you should not have done it in the first place.

The flip side is that a clever defense attorney is sure to use this sort of result as a reason to reduce any prison term. "My clients life is effectively over," he'll argue, "a prison term on top of all this disclosure is surely excessive?" Don't we want the courts to throw the book at these criminals?

If we want to be sure our children are safe from random pedophiles, then we need to supervise them (the kids) surely. This measure has the advantage of also protecting them from the many more likely things that can also happen.

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