- Being placed on the Child Protection Register can have significant and long-lasting effects on a client’s life and liberty.
- Recent Supreme Court decisions highlight the need for practitioners to be aware of the mechanisms of entry to the Register, the significant incursion on civil liberties and increased risk of criminal liability that follows.
- Particular attention should be shown to applications by NSW Police where a defendant has never been convicted of offences against children, or they present with vulnerabilities such as intellectual disability or mental health problems meaning compliance with reporting obligations will be difficult.
Given the significant impact of being placed on the Child Protection Register, it is important that practitioners are aware of the mechanisms of entry to the Child Protection Register, the significant incursion on civil liberties and the increased risk of criminal liability that follows.
Background – The Child Protection Register
The Child Protection Register was established in 2001 by the Child Protection (Offenders Registration) Act 2000 (NSW) (‘the Act’). The Register became the first database in Australia that recorded the personal details of offenders who have committed sexual offences against children, or otherwise were found to pose a risk to children. Once a person becomes a ‘Registrable Person’ under the Act, they remain on the register for life and are subjected to ongoing surveillance. They are also required to report personal information to police for long periods of time, between eight years and the remainder of their life, depending on the seriousness and number of offences. For juvenile offenders, these periods are halved or in limited circumstances do not apply. During the reporting period, NSW Police can collect intelligence which is added to the person’s case file. In addition, the Commissioner of Police (‘the Commissioner’) can apply at any time for a further order under the Child Protection (Offender Prohibition Orders) Act 2004 (NSW), which further restricts a person’s freedom of movement and association and will reactivate reporting obligations if they have expired.