‘The most draconian laws in the country’: SA’s tough new plan for child sex offenders

Repeat child sex offenders would be subject to indefinite detention and potentially lifetime electronic monitoring under new laws that will be fast-tracked through state Parliament.

Jan 23, 2024, updated Jan 23, 2024
Premier Peter Malinauskas Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Premier Peter Malinauskas Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

South Australian Premier Peter Malinauskas today described his government’s proposed amendments to the Sentencing Act 2017 as “the most draconian laws of their type anywhere in the country”.

If passed, the amendments would ensure that if a paedophile was jailed for a second time for a serious child sexual offence they would be automatically sentenced to indefinite detention.

Once imprisoned, an offender would need to demonstrate to the court that they can control their sexual urges to be considered for release. If granted, the offender would be monitored electronically for the rest of their life once they re-enter the community.

The amendments come as a man accused of raping a 12-year-old on an Adelaide train was refused bail yesterday after the court heard he had a prior child sex conviction.

As reported by The Advertiser, the man had previously been convicted of indecent assault involving a 10-year-old in 2021. The Magistrate yesterday refused the man’s bail, noting the alleged seriousness of the latest offence and his history of similar convictions.

At a press conference this morning, the Premier described the allegations as “shocking”.

“Any parent around the state would be legitimately worried and concerned at the prospect of a repeat child sex offender being in the community offending yet again,” he said.

“As a parent, I can’t think of anything more horrifying.

“We cannot have a situation where courts are releasing repeat child sex offenders, for them only to harm more children in our community, innocent children.”

The state government said it was “well-advanced” in drafting the legislation and intended to introduce it to Parliament by March.

Speaking on ABC Radio Adelaide this morning, the Premier acknowledged the seriousness of introducing indefinite detention as a sentence.

“We have to pass laws that themselves will stand up to judicial scrutiny, whether it be state courts or high courts. Indefinite detention for anybody is very serious,” Malinauskas said.

“It is the most consequential type of law that can ever be passed and there have been a whole range of legal precedents for courts striking down these tough laws. We have been able to pass indefinite detention under some circumstances previously – we are of the view that we should pass those types of laws in this state.

“If we were able to get this through Parliament, they will be the most draconian laws of any type anywhere in the country. The objective is about protecting those in the community who deserve to be able to catch a train without fear that someone has been released from custody who is a repeat child sex offender.”

At this morning’s press conference, he added that “inevitably there will be lawyers who will seek to challenge these laws”.

InDaily in your inbox. The best local news every workday at lunch time.
By signing up, you agree to our User Agreement andPrivacy Policy & Cookie Statement. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

“Indefinite detention is one of the most severe things that a Parliament can legislate for, so the opposition will come from some elements of the legal fraternity so we’ve got to make sure that these laws have the best possible ability of standing up in the High Court,” he said.

“Releasing those people back into the community is a recipe for disaster as we have seen time and time again, so we’re serious about this. This is something we have been working on for some time. But following recent events we are fast-tracking this legislation.

“We will give notice for its introduction into the Parliament in March, and I hope we can achieve cross-party support in the Parliament to get this legislation passed.”

Opposition leader David Speirs today said he hadn’t seen the legislation yet but was “very happy to work with the government on this”.

“The Government has rightly identified that there is probably a need for reform here, careful reform around the penalties that repeat sex offenders should be subjected to, and a tougher regime to make sure that people who are a clear danger to the community… should be locked up indefinitely,” Speirs said.

“We’re keen to see the detail of this legislation, but want to make it very clear that the opposition will work very constructively with the government on this one to make sure that the laws are toughened.

“There is a need for the government to take a look at a broader review of penalties in place across our legislation – we will call for an independent review of that.”

He added that the Liberal Party would not be “obstructionist with this by any means”.

“We’ll see the legislation and work with the government,” he said.

“We’re not going to get in the way of legislation that keeps the most abhorrent criminals off South Australia’s streets.”

The proposed amendments follow already introduced changes to child sex offender laws in South Australia, including increased penalties for a range of offences, slashing sentencing discounts available for pleading guilty for possession of child exploitation material, legislation to ban child sex offenders from places that hire underage employees, and tougher penalties for offenders who communicate with police officers posing as fictitious children.

The Premier said the South Australian community was “rightly sick of seeing paedophiles offending again and again and then being released back into the community”.

“I want to be clear, dangerous repeat offender paedophiles should not be in our community where they pose a risk to children,” he said.

“These laws will keep them locked up in jail, where they belong.”

Local News Matters
Copyright © 2024 InDaily.
All rights reserved.