12 February 2018

Move to change prisoner contact system after paedophile reaches out to victims

| Ian Bushnell
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Alexander Maconochie Centre

Moves are underway to reform the system that allowed a convicted paedophile to contact his victims from prison.

The paedophile is serving 10 years jail for molesting four girls, including two of his daughters, to whom he sent Christmas cards and a letter from the Alexander Maconochie Centre.

One woman’s husband, the prisoner’s son-in-law, wrote an open letter describing the distress it had caused the two sisters.

President of the ACT Human Rights Commission, Helen Watchirs, who is also acting Victims of Crime Commissioner, said she would be meeting with Corrective Services to discuss whether in matters of sexual offences, victims automatically should be placed on the non-contact list for prisoners, where it was assumed that victims did not want to be contacted.

She believed misunderstanding on both sides and a lack of follow-up from Corrective Services contributed to the recent situation.

Ms Watchiers said the Victims Register, through which victims could be consulted on matters such as the granting of parole, was based on legislation but the non-contact list was not.

“I don’t think people know about the non-contact list as well as the Victims Register, and I think that’s probably what happened in this case,” she said.

“Although the family’s attention had been drawn to it [the non-contact list], at the same time they were told about the Victims Register and may have not fully understood, but I think there is a case for sexual offences that it not an opt-in system, that it should be assumed they don’t want contact and if they do want contact something pro-active should be done by the victim.”

Ms Watchirs said she wanted to know if there could be an administrative fix given the non-contact list did not have legislative basis, and whether at least a leaflet about the non-contact list could be developed and victims made aware of it.

She would also be meeting with the family, who are keen for this not to happen to anybody else, to hear what changes they would like to see in the system.

Ms Watchirs said a Victims of Crimes Charter, which could help prevent these types of issues, was being developed, with a consultation paper issued last December.

The Justice and Community Services Directorate was now conducting a wider community consultation after the previous Victims of Crime Commissioner John Hinchey had begun the process with crime victims.

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