Queensland Police Minister Mark Ryan.
Queensland Police Minister Mark Ryan. Contributed

Sex offenders to be forced to hand over passwords

POLICE will be able to force convicted sex offenders to hand over computer passwords and self-represented sex offenders will be banned from cross-examining child witnesses in court, under new legislation to be introduced to parliament today.

Queensland Police Minister Mark Ryan introduced the bill to parliament on Tuesday.

Mr Ryan said the Child Protection and Offender Reporting and Other Legislation Amendment Bill would make children safer.

"This bill recognises that it is the right of all children to feel safe and be safe,” he said.

Mr Ryan said the bill would allow approved police to inspect sex offender's phones and computers if they have been recently released from prison, or convicted of a proscribed "internet offence”, or who are believed to be an "increased risk of re-offending”.

The software police will use to investigate the devices will find any images on the devices as well as see what websites and social media networks the owner is accessing.

The legislation will also prevent a self-represented accused child sex offender of cross-examining child witnesses in magistrates courts. This will bring more minor sex offence crimes into line with indictable offences in district and supreme courts.

Mr Ryan said the bill grew from a 2013 Crime and Corruption Commission review of existing legislation.

"Evidentiary conditions applying to child witnesses have been extended in the bill to prohibit a self-represented respondent or a reportable offender personally cross-examining a child witness.

The amendment recognises the additional trauma that may be caused when a child witness is cross-examined by a person who may be their perpetrator.”

An accused offender will be able to ask a court to appoint a lawyer for the purpose of cross-examination.

Queensland Law Society president Bill Potts said the changes would not be controversial as long as accused offenders were given a fair trial.

"Balance is the overwhelming necessity - for the defendant to have a fair trial..., and for the evidence of the defendant to be heard,” he said.

"This change would bring the law into line with the more serious offending.”

The parliamentary legal affairs committee will consider the bill before it is debated.


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