Former Bailiff speaks out against sex offender vigilantes
NAMING those who successfully apply to be removed from the Sex Offenders Register risks destabilising their rehabilitation, the former Bailiff has said.
And he added that ‘self-appointed protectors of the public interest’ need to better understand the need to reduce re-offending.
Sir William Bailhache made the comments within an anonymised judgment involving a man only referred to as ‘A’, who successfully applied to have his notification requirements removed after serving a sentence for making indecent images of children. In the judgment, Sir William added that any further publicity could make further offending more likely.
And he added that similar future court hearings may be more likely to be held behind closed doors.
Sir William also made reference to ‘self-appointed protectors of the public interest’ and said it was important for the community to recognise that once an offender had served their sentence, both the community and the offender and their family needed to ‘move forward’.
‘Sexual offences, particularly those involving children, attract a good deal of media attention. Some of this is not always helpful,’ he said.
‘Increasingly, those who have committed sexual offences also come under the scrutiny of self-appointed protectors of the public interest whose focus is perhaps understandably more on the victims of the crimes than on the need to reduce the risk of further offending by the offenders in question. This risk is not invariably best addressed, in our view, by publication of the names of the offenders and the fact of their being subject to the notification requirements.’
Sir William added that, in the case of ‘A’, it would be ‘positively counter-productive’ if he was identified but added that the judgment could be published with his name at a later date if he reoffended.
‘Accordingly, in our judgment, the court should be more willing than hitherto to sit in private for applications of this kind and, although no applicant can be entirely certain that that will be the outcome, it would be unsurprising if sitting in private for these cases became the norm, he said.
‘That would generally be followed by publication of a judgment in anonymised form.’
Meanwhile, explaining why the court had chosen to remove ‘A’ from the Sex Offenders Register, Sir William said ‘a number of years’ had passed with ‘no difficulties arising’ and that Probation had concluded that he was at a ‘low risk of sexual recidivism’.
‘He is of good character, save for the offences which led to him being subject to the notification requirements in the first place,’ he said.
‘For those offences, he has been punished with an appropriate prison sentence and, since his release, appears to have led a blameless life.’
He added: ‘He has appeared in his dealings with the Offender Management Unit to be open and sincere when discussing matters and always presents as courteous and respectful during any meetings.
The report from the Public Protection Unit concludes that “there has been no known offending or information/intelligence to raise any concerns during his time as a registered sex offender”.’
Jurats Charles Blampied and Kim Averty were also sitting.