Victims of sex offences are usually granted lifelong anonymity when a case goes to court, with many offenders also remaining anonymous in order to protect their victims.
But a shocking case recently saw an offender able to keep their identity hidden – despite pleading guilty to 10 counts of child sex abuse over the course of seven years – while their two victims’ names were made public.
According to the Daily Telegraph, District Court Judge John North cited reasons including the Dubbo offender’s high cholesterol and sleeping problems for allowing him to keep his identity secret, and the now-55-year-old man was handed a suspended sentence.
It sparked NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman to call for a change to the law in NSW, which previously allowed offender’s to remain anonymous in order “to avoid causing undue distress or embarrassment to a defendant in criminal proceedings involving an offence of a sexual nature”.
Speakman has since confirmed his proposal is part of a bill being considered in parliament, and said – if passed – offenders will no longer be subject to a non-publication order “due to undue stress or embarrassment” – unless there are exceptional circumstances.
Speakman said in a statement to Starts at 60: “The principle of open justice underpins our legal system and allows court proceedings to be open to appropriate public scrutiny. However, there are strong reasons to allow courts to protect the identities of complainants and witnesses in proceedings involving offences of a sexual nature.
“During the recent Dubbo Case, it came to my attention that a non-publication order or suppression order can be made to avoid causing undue distress or embarrassment to accused persons in sexual offence prosecutions.
“The NSW Government is amending the law to ensure the identity of an accused in sexual matters will not be subject to a non-publication order due to undue stress or embarrassment unless there are exceptional circumstances.”
The proposal is part of bill currently in the NSW Upper House. It is in its second reading.
Following the judge’s decision to allow the Dubbo paedophile to remain anonymous, one of the victims – Louise Gass – spoke to 2GB radio presenter Ray Hadley to slam the decision, and said: “The sad thing is I want to stand up for all these women, I want to be an advocate for them and I want them to push forward but this has just broken me. I just think what’s the point, is there any point?”