Released sex offenders’ rights protected
Releasing personal details under public access to information about sex offenders who have served their jail terms would not be fair to those individuals, according to information commissioner Gitanjali Gutierrez.
Ms Gutierrez, in a decision due to be made public today, upheld a refusal by the Department of Corrections to provide The Royal Gazette with a list of all convicted sex offenders released from prison between November 2006 and November 2016.
The commissioner said: “All of the individuals were released between three and 11 years ago. Disclosure may place them at risk for retribution and violence, or further negatively affect their efforts or ability to reintegrate into society.”
She added: “The information commissioner is mindful that convicted prisoners who have served their sentences, and have no other legal restrictions placed upon them — eg, probation requirements — have their rights fully restored when they are released from prison.
“These individuals should not be held to have lesser rights in relation to their privacy and personal information than another class of individuals.”
The newspaper submitted its Pati request to the department of Corrections in November 2016, after the Government opted not to notify the public that convicted paedophile John Malcolm “Chalkie” White had left prison after not taking part in any rehabilitation during his 12-year stint at Westgate.
The Gazette reported then that the power to issue a notice and picture of a sex offender to the public had been law for 15 years but had never been used until Michael Dunkley, then the Premier, released White's photograph in response to a request from this newspaper.
Ms Gutierrez said in her decision she accepted that there “can be a strong public interest in the public being notified of the release of a sex offender where that offender presents a significant risk to the community”.
But she said it would require “very significant public interests” to overcome an individual's privacy rights. Ms Gutierrez said a protocol for assessing and disclosing information about sex offenders, including where individuals presented a significant risk, was established by the Ministry of Legal Affairs in 2008.
“The information commissioner defers to the assessment under the protocol of the need to release an individual's personal information to safeguard the community,” Ms Gutierrez said.
She added: “Disclosure of the records requested in this Pati request ... cannot be necessary to achieve the public interest in disclosure of released sex offenders who present a significant risk.”
Attorney-General Kathy Lynn Simmons became the first minister to issue a public notification about a dangerous sex offender, in early 2018. She issued a second notice in February this year.
• To see a copy of the decision notice from the information commissioner, click on the PDF under “Related Media”
• On occasion The Royal Gazette may decide to not allow comments on a story that we deem might inflame sensitivities. As we are legally liable for any libellous or defamatory comments made on our website, this move is for our protection as well as that of our readers.