Sunday 9 September 2012

Talk once again of a national sex offenders’ registry - Ida Lim

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 9 — With the recent public uproar over the cases of two men found guilty of statutory rape being released on good behaviour bonds instead of being sent to jail, there is talk again of a sex offenders’ registry.

Lawyers have agreed that the setting up of such a registry would be a good move, but said it must be carried out carefully.

Bar Council’s Human Rights Committee chairman Andrew Khoo said a sex offenders’ registry would allow people to do background checks on those dealing with children.

“Before we hire teachers or people who are close to children, we have to do background checks on them to make sure they don’t have criminal records of this nature.”

Civil liberties lawyer Syahredzan Johan similarly voiced his support for a registry, saying that it will “help us to monitor in our community” and keep authorities “on alert.”

“But I would not be so fast to call anyone a paedophile or sex offender,” he said, saying there should be “proper guidelines” on “who to put on the list” and the kind of information to be made public.

“We need to be very careful as the potential to destroy an offender’s future and the violation of personal liberty is so great”, Syahredzan said, pointing to a possible “prejudice” by employers.

Joy Appukuttan, the president of Catholic Lawyers’ Association, said “it could be a step forward towards protecting the public especially children” as sex offenders “can be monitored and tracked.”

But he also said “there must be some limitations to such a registry” because it could “appear to be a second sentence” for those “already serving their sentences.”

He gave examples of possible restrictions such as a time limit for names to be on the registry and omitting those who had committed sexual offences while still a minor.

Judges should also be allowed “to determine if the name of such an offender should be registered in the registry”, Joy told The Malaysian Insider.

He said “the court will have full details of the gravity of the offence and if such an offender will be a threat to society.”

But he said that there should still be “adequate sentencing”, saying that it would “deter” sex offenders from repeating their crimes.

While Joy said that the recent two judgements were “sending the wrong message to society”, both Khoo and Syahredzan said jail sentences may not always be the best way for justice to be served.

Khoo and Syahredzan said that judges should continue to have discretion in sentencing matters, saying that each case must be judged on its particular facts.

The lawyers were referring to former national bowler Noor Afizal Azizan and electrician Chuah Guan Jiu, who were 19 and 21 respectively when they committed the offence of statutory rape on girls who were then aged 13 and 12.

In both cases, the judges said some of the factors considered in deciding the sentence were the “future” of both men and the element of consent in the sexual acts.

The Attorney-General’s (AG) Chambers has filed an appeal against the Penang Sessions Court’s decision on August 29 for Chuah’s case and is considering the use of the court’s inherent power to review the decision in Noor Afizal’s case.

The idea for a national sex offenders’ registry was first floated as far back as 2007 with the Bar Council and the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development championing its introduction over the years.

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