‘They raped children, they’re sick’
IF A convicted sex offender moved in next door, wouldn't you want to know?
"Of course you would," says Sonya Ryan, a grieving mum who knows all too well what a predator can do.
Ms Ryan, whose daughter Carly was murdered by Gary Newman in 2006, is 100 per cent in favour of a new push in Victoria that would give everyday Australians access to a database of the worst of the worst.
"It's long overdue," Ms Ryan told news.com.au. "When an adult preys on a child, I truly cannot think of a worse act. Our priority should be protecting our children."
The Victorian government said this week it will consider a radical new plan to share information on sex offenders - including photographs and identifying features - with concerned members of the public. The plan, proposed by the Victorian opposition during an election year, would be an Australian first.
Parents or school principals could apply to a special commissioner to have information released about high-risk sex offenders in their area. The commissioner would make a decision on a case-by-case basis about whether that information should be released.
Opposition leader Matthew Guy says it's about "protecting Victorians from the worst of the worst".
"Victorians have a right to know if those people are living in their suburb," he said.
To get the proposal across the line, the opposition plans to include punishments for those who misuse the information. Mr Guy said penalties for those who use the information for "vigilante justice" could include up to 10 years in prison.
"Rather than hard and fast rules, we've put penalties around vigilante action," he said.
It's a proposal that falls short of a national sex offender register proposed by Derryn Hinch, who has long campaigned for a similar model to that already operating in the US.
Under that model, anybody, at any time, could access a convicted sex offender's photo, name, address, physical description, alias and rap sheet. Each offender is ranked by the level of danger they pose to the community.
Ms Ryan says something needs to happen, even if it's a small step at first. She admits to having her "bat in" on the topic after what happened to her daughter.
Ms Ryan's daughter met who she thought was her dream boyfriend online in 2006 when Newman posed as Brendon Kane, an 18-year-old musician. The pair shared stories and plans to meet up, but Carly had no idea she was talking to a 50-year-old man with a catalogue of more than 200 teen personas.
When the two did meet, Carly was beaten to death and suffocated in the sand at Port Elliot, South Australia, before being dumped in the sea.
"The public has a right to know when there's somebody nearby," Ms Ryan said. "When somebody makes a choice to harm a child, they should be held accountable."
She said sentencing around serious child sex offending is "appalling".
"Some sentences are as little as a few months for crimes against children. That's completely unacceptable.
"I know it's a difficult subject to address, but we have to face it to create change."
She said predators leave in their wake a lifetime of suffering for survivors and victims' families and that we should not be talking about the rights of predators to stay hidden.
"Here we are thinking about the perpetrators, what about the rights of those kids".
Child safety campaigners Denise and Bruce Morcombe are also in support of the proposal. The pair, whose son Daniel fell victim to serial predator Brett Cowan, told the Herald Sun the system was much needed.
"Imagine if you had a sister who was a single mum and met a new partner. This would allow you to check up on that person," Mr Morcombe said.
"Think about a situation that is close to your heart."
Melbourne talkback radio host Neil Mitchell told 3AW listeners on Monday morning that he supports the proposal and that it "looks smart", but asked whether sex offenders should be entitled to their right to privacy.
"What do you do if the person has done their time and they're trying to make a living?"
One listener said the proposal was a "band-aid option" and another argued sex offenders should never be set free. "They raped children ... they're sick."
Further details of the proposed policy are expected to be announced by the opposition this week.