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Canada: Baranyai: How should Ontario’s sex offender registry work?

[lfpress.com – 11/29/20]

Ontario’s sex offender registry has some soul searching to do. Does it exist to punish offenders, or protect communities? And how can the framework for who goes on the list, which the Supreme Court has ruled discriminatory, support this core objective?

The government has one year to amend Christopher’s Law, named for 11-year-old Christopher Stephenson, who in 1988 was tragically abducted, assaulted and murdered by a known pedophile. A coroner’s jury recommended creating an electronic registry of sex offenders to help police target their neighbourhood searches during the critical hours after a child goes missing.

The legislation received all-party support when tabled by the Harris government in 1999. Members touted the wide net cast by the proposed registry — the first of its kind in Canada — avowing: “Even those offenders who have received absolute or conditional discharges would have to register, with no exceptions.”

That tough talk eventually gave way to reasonable “exit ramps,” providing avenues to stay off the registry if an absolute discharge is given, or to be removed if a record suspension or pardon is granted. That makes sense if the registry’s goal is protection. If it’s not in the public interest for an individual to have a criminal record, how would their presence on a registry help investigators solve any crimes?

The ruling doesn’t mean every NCR offender should be left off the registry; there’s no evidence suggesting that would serve public safety. But there’s equally no evidence they automatically belong on the registry, perhaps for life, with no consideration of their actual risk of reoffending.

As legislators take another pass at these “exit ramps,” they should think about another group whose presence on the sex offender registry is of questionable value to community safety.

In Canada, people can still be prosecuted for having sex without disclosing they are HIV positive,

Read the full article

 

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  1. TS

    “If it’s not in the public interest for an individual to have a criminal record, how would their presence on a registry help investigators solve any crimes?” Who says they public interest is served when someone has a publicly known criminal record? Who says the public even needs to know about any criminal mistake made previously? What public interest is served by making these records publicly known? I don’t recall any reasonable reason why being made known. Transparency is one thing, which gov’ts should abide by, but what about for the citizens and their history? The registry and publicly known criminal records do not serve that interest.

  2. Dustin

    Every time an Amber Alert is issued, LE doesn’t even finish harassing all the registrants within whatever radius of the last known sighting of the missing child before that child turns up because of an overreacting parent, onlooker misunderstanding, or parental custody dispute. Even in the very few and far between actual stranger-abduction cases, recovery had little (if anything) to do with the Amber Alert. Not to mention that pretty much no one pays them any more attention than they do the old yellow terrorist threat level that usually read something like “a possible terrorist group may or may not potentially do something at some point or another around some undetermined date at some unspecified location.”

    Perhaps the author should have reviewed the supposed success of the Amber Alert system since that’s nearly exactly what the author proposes for a registry that “works.”

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