Sex offender register will send paedophiles further underground: victims’ father

A father of victims of confessed paedophile Maurice Van Ryn has said a publicly available national child-sex offender register could push criminals further underground.

The problem with the publicly available register is they [the offenders] disappear.

Father of victims of confessed paedophile Maurice Van Ryn

Last week child protection advocate and Bravehearts founder and chair Hetty Johnston called the push by Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton for the register “a political stunt”.

Mr Dutton said the register, which would make certain information on offenders available via a publicly accessible website, “would have a strong deterrent effect on offenders”. 

The father of Van Ryn’s victims said Mr Dutton has “hijacked” the “important issue” for “political purposes” ahead of this year’s federal election.

“Whilst I’ve always advocated for some kind of register, this extreme model I do not believe is the appropriate way to handle it,” he said.

“A more controlled register where parents who might observe behaviour which causes them to have concerns could then contact their local police department and ask whether the person was on the register would be my preference.”

He said possible models being put forward ahead of the current nationwide consultation process may drive offenders to “go to ground”.

“The problem with the publicly available register is they [the offenders] disappear,” he said.

“They will use every trick in the book once they’re out of prison to hide, and a public register will give them more reason to do so.”

The federal government said reports of child sexual abuse and exploitation to the Australian Federal Police rose by 77 per cent last year.

"The abuse and exploitation of children is a global epidemic that is becoming more prevalent, more organised and more extreme," Mr Dutton said.

Consultations on what details would be made public have begun with the states and territories, as well as law enforcement agencies, and will at some point involve non-government stakeholders such as Bravehearts.

Ms Johnston said while she had initially supported such a register, “facts” show it “simply does not work to protect children”.

“It makes the community feel better but it does not protect our children,” she said.

She is instead calling for “tougher sentencing, continued detention, community awareness and compulsory effective personal safety education” for all children.