Ms Kate Smithers1
Since the 1990s there has been a ‘wave’ of public concern about sexual offending, particularly when victims are children, and especially so when offenders are predatory strangers. In this period sex offenders have come to be considered the most serious and dangerous offenders, qualitatively and morally different from ‘the rest of us’. As a result of the seriousness with which sex offending has come to be considered many jurisdictions, including NSW, have introduced a range of measures aimed at reducing the risks posed by such offenders and increasing community protection. Such measures include sex offender registers, residency restrictions, extended supervision orders, and electronic monitoring of offenders’ movements. Concerns have been raised about the legality, utility and fairness of such measures. The current research explores the perspectives of practitioners such as treatment providers, psychiatrists and lawyers who are working with, and providing assistance to, convicted sex offenders living in the NSW community. In particular, semi-structured interviews were used to elicit the views of practitioners about the factors which have led to the introduction of the current legislative and policy framework; the way the laws are being implemented in practice; factors constraining or promoting the effectiveness of current measures; and suggestions about how the current system could be reformed to achieve better outcomes, including the enhancement of child safety.
Kate Smithers is a PhD candidate in the Faculty of Law, UNSW. She has an Arts degree and Law degree from Macquarie University and a Masters of Criminology, from the University of Sydney. Kate has worked for over 15 years in government agencies providing oversight to the NSW corrective services, policing and child protection systems.