The witch hunt against sex offenders is a significant part of the wider war against men. Of course it’s important to protect children (and adults) from sexual violence and exploitation and to punish those who disobey relevant laws. However, we have increased punishment to disproportionate levels so that gentle illegal sexual touching is now often punished more harshly than killing or permanently maiming someone. Also, we have step by step reduced protections against wrongful conviction specifically in sexual offence cases. For example, special restrictions have been imposed on cross-examination of sexual complainants and convictions have been made possible on the basis of inadequate evidence including allegations devoid of supporting evidence and allegations claimed to be accurate after many decades of rumination and memory revision often under the influence of suggestion by therapists. These and many other reductions in protection against wrongful conviction (and punishment) have been introduced specifically and exclusively for sexual allegations. They represent erosion of justice and there is no more merit for such erosion when it comes to sexual allegations than for any other class of alleged offending. However, sexual offences are mainly committed by men and this is the key factor.
The latest development in this witch hunt is National MP Jian Yang’s private member’s bill to prevent child sex offenders from changing their names. There may be merit in some version of this idea, but why should any such provision not be considered similarly important for other offenders? For example, what about
– teachers who have been convicted for physical or emotional abuse of children;
– CYF caregivers who are convicted for physically assaulting, financially exploiting or placing at risk the children they were paid to look after;
– corrupt cops and public officials;
– employees convicted of stealing from their employers;
– repeat fraudsters;
– corrupt used-car salespeople and other business people;
– women who marry men in order to exploit them financially including making false allegations;
– career burglars who may seek to live incognito in your street;
– P cooks who may seek to rent your rental property;
– or many other offence categories?
Dr Jian’s bill is a knee-jerk one in response to the case of Terito Henry Miki who changed his name and used fake papers to get work as a teacher in six different schools despite having offended sexually against his nephew and despite officially being on an extended supervision order preventing him from associating with children. The irrationality underlying Dr Jian’s bill is highlighted by the following:
– There was no indication that Mr Miki committed or attempted any sexually inappropriate behaviour, not even ‘grooming’, in any of the six teaching roles.
– Mr Miki’s sexual offence was against a close member of his family and there was no evidence of sexual offending or propensity for such offending in his previous teaching roles.
– Mr Miki’s offending history included 62 convictions for fraud and many other convictions plus an additional unknown list from Australia. His case may have provided an argument for preventing convicted fraudsters, thieves and psychopaths from changing their names, but seeing his case as a reason to prevent all those ever convicted of a child sex offence (especially keeping in mind that protections against wrongful sexual convictions have been eroded) can only be based on irrational superstition.
Dr Jian claimed that his bill was intended, among other things, to assist in offender rehabilitation. The opposite will be true because the sex-offender witch hunt is widespread in our community. Names are widely and thoroughly published. Ongoing mob justice and community alienation for such offenders can only serve to increase their stress and therefore their risk of new offending, and to inhibit their efforts to meet their needs legitimately and to build a worthwhile non-offending life. In some cases, changing one’s name will be the only chance for a sexual offender to be able to establish a viable law-abiding existence.
It may be useful to enable a sentencing or parole Court to make an order against name changing in specific cases. And/or perhaps a provision would be sensible enabling an offender to apply for Court permission to change his or her name. However, preventing name changes should neither be applied arbitrarily and permanently to every sexual offender regardless of the circumstances, nor be restricted only to sexual offenders.