Log In

Reset Password

Attorney-General explains paedophile policy

Attorney-General Trevor Moniz

Attorney-General Trevor Moniz insisted yesterday he was unable to tell the public about the release from prison of paedophile John Malcolm “Chalkie” White because a written policy on how to do so had yet to be drawn up — but a backbencher from his own party scoffed at the claim.

Section 329H of the Criminal Code, which gives the justice minister the power to issue a notice about a sex offender if he believes there is a need to protect the public, has been law for 15 years but is understood to have never been used because of the lack of a “protocol”.

Mr Moniz told The Royal Gazette he could not issue the notification until the policy was written but MP Mark Pettingill, himself a former Attorney-General, contradicted that, noting that the legislation says only that the Minister of Justice “may” establish a protocol.

Mr Pettingill said: “Technically, it is not something he ‘must’ do. In any event, this particular matter, given its severity, needs to be addressed as urgent in the public interest.”

White served 12 years of a 25-year sentence for crimes against three young boys, including sexual assault, buggery, attempted buggery and sexual exploitation in Smith’s and St George’s between 1996 and 2001.

Child safety campaigner Sheelagh Cooper said the former policeman, who lured the boys to his home to rape them, could have been kept behind bars for longer because he refused to take part in rehabilitative treatment in breach of official prison rules.

The Coalition for the Protection of Children, Ms Cooper’s charity, released a paper last month calling on the authorities to exercise their powers under the Prison Rules 1980 and keep offenders in jail for such refusals.

“Any inmate can walk out free after two-thirds of their sentence unless they defy or break the Prison Rules,” she said. “In almost 99 per cent of cases, they walk out unsupervised. My legislative and policy agenda speaks to that very issue, because section 32(C)2 says a prisoner is guilty of an offence if he refuses treatment.

“Inmates like this, who refuse to take the programme, walk out without any intervention at all [but] they don’t have to change a thing in order to keep guys like this inside. To me, this is critical.”

Edward Lamb, Commissioner of Corrections, said that section of the rules was “generally applied through the case plan for each inmate”.

But he added: “The circumstances of Mr White’s case precluded, to a large degree, Corrections making him attend sex offender classes. Having him attend group classes would have been extremely volatile and dangerous given his offence and his previous occupation.

“Even if he was charged for not attending, at some point he would still have to be released, whether at two-thirds [of his sentence] or later, without attending a class. He was seriously assaulted at one point and spent an extended time in maximum security/segregated for his protection.”

Mr Moniz said he only became aware of White’s October 31 release from prison on Friday and learnt that afternoon of the relevant section of the Criminal Code Act 1907 regarding public notification and the absence of the protocol.

“There are two things you need to do,” he said. “First, you need to formulate a written policy and the Act requires you to consult with the Commissioner of Police to get a threat assessment. A draft policy has existed since [former Attorney-General] Kim Wilson’s day.”

He said he understood the draft policy was never enforced because there were concerns it was unconstitutional and could infringe on the rights of the offender. Mr Moniz added that he was now investigating how soon a fresh policy could be written and had asked the Commissioner for further information on White.

“Obviously, it’s going to take a little bit of time,” he said. “I’m not saying it [the notice] is not likely to be published but the immediate thing people want to know is who is that person and his name has now been published. We are continuing to work on it.”

The legislation allows the Minister to release a photograph of the offender but Mr Moniz said he did not have one.

He rejected criticism from Mr Pettingill and Zane DeSilva, chairman and vice-chairman, respectively, of the joint parliamentary select committee on safeguarding children, that he should have acted sooner.

The committee was tasked by Parliament with examining existing legislation regarding sex offenders in November 2014. Mr Moniz said it had yet to produce a report but was investigating exactly the kinds of issues raised by the White case.

“When you are accusing someone of delay and it’s been two days and you have taken 18 months — well, where does the delay lie?”

Mr Pettingill responded that the committee had done “extensive work in getting a report together” and anticipated that a draft would be ready before Christmas. The report will consider prevention, treatment of offenders and monitoring on release from jail.

The AG said concern over White’s release had prompted suggestions about whether there was an “appropriate framework to be rehabilitated while in prison” and what improvements had been made since White was jailed in 2004.

“There is some suggestion that there wasn’t participation in schemes of rehabilitation but these things take time to investigate,” he said.

Lt Col Lamb said the answer to whether there was an infrastructure in place to aid rehabilitation was an emphatic “yes”. “It is a well-known fact that we offer a multitude of rehabilitative programmes at Westgate, including sex offender programmes.”