PETALING JAYA: The Association of Women Lawyers (AWL) wants more consistency in the government’s commitment towards the establishment of a sex offender registry.
Calling any efforts or statements out of Putrajaya currently as mere knee-jerk reactions to issues in the media, AWL said two cases in the past seven months highlight the more urgent attention that is required on the matter.
“So far, the government’s responses appear to be knee jerk reactions to issues in the media with an ‘international’ flavour to it.
“First, it was Richard Huckle whose conviction last June in the UK sparked off the sexual grooming laws and now, Malaysian Selva Kumar Subbiah’s imminent deportation from Canada has revived discussions on the need for a sexual offender registry,” AWL president Goh Siu Lin said in a statement.
The Richard Huckle case broke last June when he was given 22 life sentences in the United Kingdom (UK) for sexually abusing Malaysian children while on a teaching stint in the country.
Meanwhile, convicted serial rapist Selva Kumar was released yesterday from a Toronto prison, after serving a 24-year jail term, and is due to be deported to Malaysia.
AWL called for more clarity from the relevant ministries on the development of sex offender registration policies.
“What are the arrangements in place to track and monitor known travelling sex offenders (with criminal records) who cross state and international borders to enter our country (to seek new offending opportunities) and who may be less visible to the authorities.
“Would residency and travelling restrictions be placed on the sexual offender?” Goh asked.
She also called for the government to consider community notification policies similar to that which are carried out under the Megan’s Law in the United States.
“We do understand that such policies have to be balanced against an invitation to vigilantism and the impact against the offender to live a normal life.
“In the UK for example, the authorities practice ‘discretionary disclosures’ of sexual offender registration to certain parties with the authorisation of senior officers,” Goh said.
She added that the more pertinent issues related to a policy on the maintenance of a sex offenders registry would demand the following questions:
– Who will administer and regulate the sex offender registry?
– Who has access to the information in the registry?
– Is there any process of review if someone is mistakenly added to the register?
– What action can be taken with such information?
Goh cited reports of how the education ministry was reassigning teachers accused of suspected sexual misconduct rather than terminating their employment as an example where one could question the need to regulate the action taken against sex offenders.