In 1996 when US President Bill Clinton signed in
Megan's Law he said: 'We respect people's rights, but there is no right
greater than a parent's right to raise a child in safety and love.
That's why the law should follow those who prey on children wherever
they go, state to state, town to town.'
Saving kids from sexual predators
Last night my Sex Offenders Registry Bill was voted to
select committee. Not one party opposed the Bill, though the Green Party
indicated it would not support the Registry becoming law. My Bill is not
the same as Megan's Law, in that offenders' details won't be available
to the general public, but it echoes the sentiments expressed by Bill
The vote in favour of this Bill is, I believe, a vote
in favour of a shift away from the failed policies of the past 30 years
where it was thought if you just be nice to criminals, they will behave
themselves. This has led to criminals being treated as victims,
and real victims having their true rights — to life, liberty and the
pursuit of happiness — crushed.
My Liberty Belle this week is an extract of my speech
to the House last night when I introduced the Bill:
"Mr Speaker nearly 10 years ago, as a journalist, I
stumbled into an area of crime about which I had very little knowledge.
It was a crime that was protected by a cone of
silence. It was criminal offending which, if it occurred on the other
side of the world, like Belgium, where little girls were locked in a
basement for days to be sexually abused and die, the newspapers here
would be filled with horrifying reports and photographs.
But it was criminal offending which, if it happened
next door in New Zealand suburbia, we turned out heads the other way and
didn't want to know. When you read in the paper today, the name of someone
convicted of indecent assault on young children, do you expect to
remember that person's name in three or four years' time?
Sex offenders aren't just grubby old men in raincoats
loitering in parks around the swings and slides. They're in scout and
cub groups; they're church leaders or school teachers; they're Justices
of the Peace — pillars of the community; they organise youth groups and
take children away on camps; they join computer clubs and take young
members home on the pretext of playing computer games. They know where
to find young children who are vulnerable, often lonely, too trusting.
I did further research and discovered that rapists,
not just paedophiles, were repeat offenders too, and were getting off
far too lightly with ridiculous sentences, then being let loose on an
unsuspecting community. I couldn't let this matter rest and decided I had a
book in itself, and published the 1996 Paedophile & Sex Offender Index.
Naively I thought I'd get a few snotty reviews from
civil liberties. I had no inkling of the torrent of abuse that would
descend on me from almost every newspaper editor, journalist,
commentator, academic, the Ministry of Justice, politicians — all the bien pensant chattering class brigade who believe if we just be nice to
criminals, they'll behave themselves and stop offending. It is this attitude that has allowed paedophiles,
rapists and sexual molesters to carry on with their behaviour with
little fear of being caught.
If someone wants to take out a mortgage, buy something
on hire purchase, or borrow money, they have to submit to a credit check
to make sure they can be trusted with other people's money. Every day,
Baycorp runs about 15,000 such checks through its system. Why couldn't we have such a system for those who want
to be trusted with other people's children?
When Kate Alkema was murdered on the Hutt riverbank
the police investigating the crime said something like 60 sex attacks
had occurred in that area in the past two years. Now if 60 swimmers had gotten into difficulty at a
beach in a two-year time span there would be signs everywhere warning of
the dangerous tidal rips.
Why can't we give women information about sex offences
so they can try and keep themselves safe?
If you knew that a repeat, dangerous offender like
Taffy Hotene had been released on parole in your neighbourhood, would
you let your young daughter walk home in the dark from the bus stop? Kylie Jones' family in Auckland wasn't allowed this
information, because Taffy Hotene's right to privacy was considered more
important than Kylie Jones' right to life.
Mr Speaker I believe this is legislation whose time
has come. The climate has changed considerably since I published my book
in 1996. I believe the New Zealand public is ready for this law."
Here's hoping this Bill progresses smoothly through
the rest of the democratic process and we join the UK, Ontario and
states of Australia in legislating to protect the community from repeat
Yours in liberty,
Liberty Belle is a column from Deborah Coddington,
Member of Parliament for ACT New Zealand.