Pedophiles, sex offenders could be outed under law changes

PEDOPHILES and sex offenders whose identities have been suppressed via court orders may be about to be outed under proposed changes from the Federal Government. 

Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm announced the Turnbull Government had agreed to take a lead role in reforming suppression orders which he says impede open justice. 

"Suppression orders are often made by courts without any opposing argument and with broad scope and unnecessarily lengthy duration," Mr Leyonhjelm said. 

"This impedes open justice, which is fundamental to ensuring community faith in the justice system. The public should know that laws are being applied fairly, and that those who break laws are being prosecuted.

"Suppression orders should, as a matter of course, specify the narrow range of information that is being suppressed and have a limited term, so that no more information is made confidential than necessary.

"Media outlets would often like to make arguments to court before a suppression order is made, but are not notified that such an order is proposed to be made or are refused the right to make arguments. They should be given every opportunity to argue for information being public and any necessary orders being appropriately narrow.

"Subject-specific regimes, as apply in proceedings such as those against children, have particular considerations in addition to the above and would not be diminished by such a proposal."

Non-specific suppression orders frequently force media outlets not to identify sex offenders, particularly child sex offenders, for fear of being found to be in contempt of court. 

The Prime Minister's office was asked to clarify if the changes discussed with Mr Leyonhjelm would apply retrospectively but is yet to reply. 

Mr Leyonhjelm said via release this afternoon that the Government had agreed to the following:

  • Ensure suppression orders specify the topic to which they relate and only suppress such information that is necessary to achieve the purpose of the order;
  • Ensure orders have a stated limit on their duration; and
  • Give media an express right to seek a review of orders (scope or duration).

The announcement came about as a result of horse trading between the Coalition and Mr Leyonhjelm amidst government efforts to win the Senator's vote so that legislation required to recreate the Australian Building and Construction Commission could pass,

Another part of the agreement was that the ABC and SBS will be forced to have at least half their board meetings each year shall followed by open community board forums, with at least two of these to be held in regional areas.

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