Queensland to begin GPS tracking by Christmas


August 18,2011 16:26:00

The Queensland Corrective Services Minister says the roll out of GPS tracking for released,high risk,sex offenders will begin by Christmas. But the Australian Lawyers Alliance says if the minister believes it improves monitoring then the state’s controversial indefinite sentencing laws should be repealed.

(Matt Wordsworth)

Source:The World Today
Duration:3min 58sec



ELEANOR HALL:Every high risk sex offender released in Queensland will be forced to wear a GPS tracking device by early next year. The state’s Corrective Services Minister,Neil Roberts,says the rollout of the ankle bracelets will begin before Christmas with parolees to be monitored 24 hours a day.
In Brisbane,Matt Wordsworth reports.
MATT WORDSWORTH:Queensland’s parole officers can already monitor released sex offenders electronically. There is a radio frequency device which acts like a curfew bracelet –if the person isn’t inside a proscribed area it sounds an alarm.
But many in the community have long suggested that offenders can travel outside the grounds within their allotted times and commit offences,so the Queensland Department of Corrective Services will begin 24-hour GPS tracking of released sex offenders.
Minister,Neil Roberts.
NEIL ROBERTS:We currently have just under 70 offenders on supervision orders which require electronic monitoring,so our intention is to put the first group of 10 to 12 on before Christmas and then to roll it out to the remaining 60 or so in the early months of next year.
MATT WORDSWORTH:The Queensland Government resisted calls for GPS tracking in the past,saying it was unreliable and prone to black spots,particularly in places like shopping centres. But last week about 20 parole officers strapped on the ankle bracelets for a trial and it was a success.
NEIL ROBERTS:Well initially it would be those offenders who are on the prison reserves. We currently have transitional housing in Wacol and in Townsville,so it will be those areas which will be initially allocated and then progressively to those who are actually situated in the community.
MATT WORDSWORTH:The technology has been in use in New Zealand for some time but New South Wales is the only other Australian state to have adopted it. A source in the corrective services department there says it’s worked well.
The Queensland Minister says there are about 3,700 people on the National Child Offender Register,but says the GPS devices won’t be made retrospective.
NEIL ROBERTS:There’s no provision to do that other than those people who are currently serving a sentence and the process is 12 to 18 months prior to the end of that sentence,a very rigorous assessment process takes place and then the Attorney General at the end of the sentence or prior to the end will make application to the court in the first instance to keep the person in jail,if they reach the threshold,but obviously if the court won’t keep them in jail for a range of reasons,they would be then put on a supervision order in the community.
MATT WORDSWORTH:Queensland already has the toughest laws in Australia for sex offenders. They can be kept in jail indefinitely if the Government can convince a court they would be a danger to the community.
Groups like the Council for Civil Liberties have made no secret of their opposition to indefinite sentencing. The laws have already survived a High Court challenge but the president of the Australian Lawyers Alliance,Greg Barns,says GPS tracking should make them a thing of the past.
GREG BARNS:If you have GPS tracking alongside the fact that people are on parole for long periods of time when they’re released,and often getting some form of treatment,you really do have community concern being catered for quite adequately.
And there is no need for there to be fear in the community about sex offenders being released.
MATT WORDSWORTH:Is there any need to have indefinite sentencing?
GREG BARNS:No. Indefinite sentencing is appalling for this reason –that it cuts across what is fundamental in a democratic community and that is that a person is sentenced by the courts to a term of imprisonment –that is what the court judges to be,speaking on behalf of the community,to be adequate.
Once a person has received that sentence and done their time they should be released back into the community. Certainly in relation to sex offenders,if there is to be GPS tracking,any sex offender in Queensland prisons who is being held there beyond the term of their imprisonment,there should be serious consideration now given to their immediate release.
ELEANOR HALL:That’s Greg Barns from the Australian Lawyers Alliance ending that report from Matt Wordsworth in Brisbane.

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