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Education Welcomes Bill On Sex Offenders

The Ministry of Education has welcomed a proposal to implement a law to register convicted sex offenders. Permanent Secretary Alison Burchell yesterday made submissions on behalf of the ministry before
29 Mar 2018 11:00
Education Welcomes Bill On Sex Offenders
Permanent Secretary Alison Burchell

The Ministry of Education has welcomed a proposal to implement a law to register convicted sex offenders.

Permanent Secretary Alison Burchell yesterday made submissions on behalf of the ministry before the Standing Committee on Justice, Law and Human Rights that is currently in the process of receiving submissions on the Registration of Sex Offenders Bill and the Online Safety Bill.

Ms Burchell said they were keen on implementing the Act and would act swiftly to remove any convicted sex offenders in the education system.

“If someone is put on the register we would want to act as quickly as possible to minimise all risks possible,” she said.

“Six months for us is a very long time and we would want to act probably within six days.”

She said moving forward they hoped to be engaged in a lot more forward planning to involve people whom they could call on.

Committee chairperson Ashneel Sudhakar questioned Ms Burchell about their current practice within the ministry once someone was charged with a sexual offence, but had not been convicted.

He also asked if the person was allowed to maintain their job until a conviction was entered.

Ms Burchell responded, saying they had an employment approach to discipline.

“If someone is accused of a sexual-related offence we would generally suspend them immediately and move that person from the school or from contact with young people,” she said.

“Then we would institute an investigation of our own because the burden of proof within the employment sector is not as stringent as is within the criminal court sector.

“We would try and act as quickly as possible, which could be quicker than the courts, to remove that person from our employment.

“If the instructions are for us to comply with this Bill we will be obliged to meet the regulations and law because we do not want to break the law.”

Ms Burchell also submitted that it was important that there was a provision within Sections 27 and 31 of the Bill about having access to information.

She said it could be remedied by sending a list of people to the Police Commissioner of those who had been granted employment so that the Police could highlight individuals on the list who may be on the sex offenders register.

“This has implications for us in terms of employment and the management process associated with that,” she said.

“Trying to get the information before an appointment is made is ideal because trying to get someone out of employment once they are in employment is slightly more challenging.”

Deputy Permanent Secretary Timoci Bure asked the committee how offending teachers could be rehabilitated and reinstated into the teaching profession.

Mr Sudhakar responded that in its present form the Bill outlined that the only way to get off the register was if the conviction was set aside by the court.

“As long as the conviction remains you are on that register. Unlike other offences, Police keep records for 10 years and the conviction would appear on the record, but for sexual offences it is there for life until it is set aside,” Mr Sudhakar said.

“Any person who is in a child-related field and is employed at the moment, within six months after the enforcement of this Bill, they have to relinquish their position.”

Edited Naisa Koroi

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