OUR VIEW: When sex offenders are living among us

There are few issues more likely to strike a chord of concern among the public than the perceived threat posed by sex offenders living in our midst.
New figures released to the Bay of Plenty Times revealed 27 sex offenders living under supervision in the Western Bay of Plenty as at September 30.
Of the 27 offenders, 15 had committed offences against a child aged 16 or younger, with two living under extended supervision orders.
Convicted sex offenders living supervised in the community is not a new concept, however the release of these figures highlights the issue, and inevitably will worry many, particularly those with young children.
Among those concerned is Sensible Sentencing Trust's Garth McVicar. Mr McVicar has called for the safety of the public to be put ahead of the rights of the offender.
In this, he is correct, but this should not extend as far as his other suggestion of labelling sex offenders' homes with signs reading "Sex Offender Lives Here" as in the United States.
Mr McVicar's views are in keeping with the traditions of the hardline lobby group.
This newspaper also spoke to a Western Bay woman who was the victim of an indecent assault in 2007, and she was understandably uneasy about the number of sex offenders living in the community.
She also felt offenders' names and addresses should be publicly identified.
But to identify the homes of convicted sex offenders will only increase the risk of vigilante justice, and increase the workload forthe police.
Putting sex offender identification signs on sections would also be a difficult scheme to administer - it's all too easy for signs to be removed or vandalised by an irate offender who is perhaps not so keen to have their criminal background revealed.

It's an inescapable fact that sex offenders need to be rehabilitated back into public life.
While purely punitive sentences appeal to some segments of our community, to disregard rehabilitation as an aspect of sentencing would be a backwards step, both for the offender and for our wider society.
However, despite the importance of rehabilitation, it's clear that greater transparency is needed when convicted sex offenders are released.
The public and media should be given the name of any offender being released into the community, as well as being told which city they are to live in. We have a right to know.
Withholding the specific address that the offender is to live at will quell some of the risks of some taking the law into their own hands, and appropriate monitoring and safeguards need to be maintained, to ensure innocent people are not put at risk.
People will always be apprehensive about having convicted sex offenders living in the community, but the right balance needs to be struck to ensure the offender has the best chance for rehabilitation, while the public remains protected.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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