Proposed sex-offender registry will not deter crime, criminal lawyer warns
Published Friday, February 28, 2014 8:46AM EST
The Conservative government’s plan to create a publicly-accessible database of child sex offenders will do little if anything to deter sex crimes and could actually lead to an increase in offences, an Ottawa-based defence lawyer warns.
Michael Spratt, who has testified at numerous parliamentary committees on criminal legislation, says the sex registry is being sold as a way to protect children and assist parents, but it is nothing more than “false advertising.”
The Conservative government’s legislation, introduced Wednesday, would create a publicly-accessible database of high-risk child sex offenders. It would also require registered sex offenders to provide more information when they travel abroad and permit more sharing of information between federal agencies.
“Online registries, they’re seductive, they sound like a good idea and they’re easy to sell to the public and they’re an easy position to advertise,” Spratt told CTV’s Canada AM on Friday.
“But if you look at the criminological evidence that has dealt with public registries … that evidence has found that there isn’t a reduce in offence because of the registry, there isn’t a detection in crime because of the registry.”
Spratt says that some studies have actually found that public registries make reintegration of an offender back into society, increasing the chances of a person reoffending.
Spratt, who runs a legal blog, turns to several studies that show what he calls are flaws with registries.
One study that looked at New York’s Sex Offender Registration and Notification Law concluded the registry had little to no impact on reducing sex crimes because most offences are committed by those who have not previously been convicted of one.
Because of these “false assumptions” regarding sex offenders and sexual offences, the study said, “attention and resources are diverted from those most common types of sex offences -- those committed by first-time sex offenders and those who have a pre-established relationship with the victim.”
Spratt cites several other studies that come to a similar conclusion.
He says the sex registry being proposed by the Conservatives is simply another example of the government ignoring established evidence when drafting legislation.
“These things don’t make the public safer, they don’t deter crimes, they don’t top people from committing crimes, and they certainly don’t assist in rehabilitation,” Spratt said.
Public Safety Minister Stephen Blaney said Wednesday that "Parents have the right to know if there is a dangerous pedophile in their neighbourhood."
The legislation will also increase sentences for certain child sex offences as well as penalties for violating conditions of supervision orders.