Monday, January 2, 2012

A New Year


CA - Mission Viejo to consider sex-offender ban

District Attorney Tony Rackauckas
Original Article

01/01/2012

By CHRIS BOUCLY

Mission Viejo drafts ordinance similar to law passed in April for county parks.

MISSION VIEJO - A ban on registered sex offenders in city parks is on Tuesday's City Council agenda.

The proposed ban would make it a misdemeanor for sex offenders to be at any of the city's 40 parks, nine open space areas, six community and recreation centers or the World Cup soccer fields without written permission from the Orange County Sheriff's Department, which handles police services for Mission Viejo. A violation could bring up to six months in jail, a fine of up to $500 or both.

The draft ordinance is worded similarly to a county law passed in April by the Board of Supervisors that focuses on county parks, beaches and harbors in unincorporated areas. Following its approval, the Orange County District Attorney's Office began urging city officials to pass the ban. District Attorney Tony Rackauckas is scheduled to appear at the Mission Viejo meeting to answer questions about the proposed ban, according to a news release from the District Attorney's Office.

Rackauckas, his chief of staff Susan Kang Schroeder and other District Attorney's Office staff have appeared in council chambers across the county to answer city officials' questions as they've discussed the ban, considering issues of liability, enforceability and constitutionality, among others.

So far, the ban has been approved in Irvine, La Habra, Lake Forest, Laguna Hills, Los Alamitos, Huntington Beach, Westminster and Yorba Linda. Irvine's law is narrowly tailored to sex offenders who have targeted minors.

Laguna Hills is the first city to include private parks run by homeowners associations in the ban. HOAs must submit a written request to Laguna Hills to have the ban enforced before action would be taken, according to the law.

Laguna Hills City Attorney Greg Simonian said the ban's constitutionality has yet to be tested in the courts, though the Orange County Public Defender's Office is challenging some cases in Orange County Superior Court.

Simonian told the Laguna Hills council that in a legal challenge, analysis likely would focus on the objective of the law and whether it has been narrowly tailored to achieve that objective. If the law is too broad – for example targeting all registered sex offenders rather than a subset, as Irvine did – it might not be seen as able to achieve the objective. Laguna Hills ultimately banned all registered sex offenders from its parks.

Lake Forest's version of the ban is stricter than most, eliminating the exception that would allow offenders to enter city parks with written permission from the Sheriff's Department. The approach is similar to that of Huntington Beach, where officials passed the ban in November that does not have any provision allowing the city's police chief to give offenders permission to enter parks.

There are 1,881 registered sex offenders in Orange County, according to the Megan's Law database, created as part of a 2004 state law to provide the public with Internet access to information about California's more than 63,000 registered sex offenders. There are 23 registered sex offenders in Mission Viejo, according to the database.

The City Council meets at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 200 Civic Center. Information: cityofmissionviejo.org.


Sex offender policies misleading, under-funded and potentially disastrous

Original Article

12/27/2011

By Raymond Peytors

Legal sources have told TheOpinionSite.org that the government is failing in its duty to rehabilitate sex offenders by cutting spending on vital offending behaviour courses, choosing instead to spend taxpayer’s money on misleading policies designed to convince the public that the government is protecting children when in fact it is not really doing so at all.

As a result of lack of courses, sex offenders are not being released when they should be, are not receiving the necessary support when they are eventually released and are unlikely to ever find work due to the fear whipped up by the government in order to achieve short term political gain.

There is also a misleading and damaging emphasis on ‘stranger danger’, again for political reasons, when in reality most child abuse takes place in the home.

Our source has told us that many offending behaviour courses (OBC), seen as critical to the release of most offenders, are being cut due to lack of government funding. Although the Sex Offender Treatment Programme (SOTP) has to some extent been protected, there are still nothing like enough SOTP courses to satisfy demand.

Sex offenders are being told that they must undertake SOTP whilst in prison and also in the community if they are to be released. However, the government is content to starve the prison and probation services of the necessary funds, content in the knowledge that no MP will ever utter a single word in support of the rehabilitation of those that have become society’s most reviled criminals.

It seems the Home Secretary, Theresa May believes that a man who goes around permanently crippling pensioners in order to steal from them is ok to be released but someone who has committed any type of sexual offence, sometimes 40 years ago, is not.

A violent criminal is apparently much less likely to be subject to the full force of police and probation supervision than a person who has committed even the most minor sexual offence. Nor will the violent criminal be forced to register with the police in the same way as is required of a sex offender.

Successive governments over the last 25 years, the Blair government in particular, have used sex offenders as a political device to divert public attention from more serious government failures. Governments have also reacted to sex crimes with ‘knee-jerk’ legislation that has increased some sentences from 2 years to life imprisonment.

Bulger, Payne, Soham, Garry Glitter and other cases have encouraged ministers to seize the moment and to make political capital out of tragedy, both by bringing in new, often badly thought out legislation and by ramping up existing sentences and restrictions relating to sex offenders.

Lord Bichard, the author of the report following the Soham Inquiry, admitted in a recent parliamentary debate that many of his recommendations following the murder of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman had been disproportionately implemented for political reasons.

Successive UK administrations have copied the USA and spent millions forcing schools, voluntary organisations, churches and children’s groups to encourage children to see paedophiles around every corner and to cynically terrify parents with ever more frightening thoughts of child abduction, rape and murder.

However, you will never hear any Home Secretary or tabloid editor tell the truth and admit that in reality 95% of all child abuse takes place within the family and is committed by friends or relatives, whilst only a tiny fraction of abuse is perpetrated by strangers. These figures are supported by Britain’s biggest child protection charities and even the government itself.

Meanwhile, the money – your money actually – is continuing to be spent on enforcing the largely useless Sex Offenders Register and MAPPA, paying expensive policemen to visit convicted offenders at home and training just about everyone to seek out abuse by strangers when most of it takes place in a child’s own home.

Private companies too are making a fortune promoting the threat of abuse and, often with taxpayer’s support, running lucrative courses on child protection at £350 per person. Again, it is all directed towards ‘stranger danger’ when in reality that is not the main source of threats to children’s safety.

Much needed money that could be used to successfully rehabilitate sex offenders is also still being wasted on publicity generating campaigns that allegedly protect children in other countries outside the UK. Child protection is of course not a bad thing but in all these cases, there is a substantial profit being made by someone, largely on the back of fear and paranoia.

Other European countries, those that are not paranoid and have not been taken in by the lie put forward by recent British governments, do not have these problems. They still manage to deal with the appalling crime of sexual abuse but not in the hysterical, ignorant and headline-grabbing manner that we do in Britain.

Instead, they concentrate on rehabilitating the offender and, crucially, finding him a job which, as any policeman or probation officer will tell you, is one of the surest ways in which to prevent further offending.

By reintegrating the European sex offender into the community, he is able to pay taxes, contribute to society, live a normal life and avoid reoffending.

His British counterpart on the other hand is segregated from the community for fear of reprisal or worse, has no support, is subject to regulations that in practice prevent him from working and is almost persecuted by the authorities to the point where he can contribute little, if anything, to society, even after his sentence is completed.

TheOpinionSite.org does not condone the actions of sex offenders in any way but we do acknowledge that they exist, mainly within the family and believe that when they are convicted and incarcerated, everything should be done to rehabilitate them.

When they are eventually released, there should always be a job for them (the biggest employer in the country is the government itself after all), they should be supported and in return, the offender should take the opportunity to regain their position as a truly contributing member of society.

It is estimated that apart from the 50,000 sexual offenders currently on the Sex Offenders Register (there were only 3,000 twelve years ago), there are over a million others that have not been prosecuted. What is more, there are many, many more potential sex offenders within the families of Britain that will not be discovered until they have already harmed a child.

It is clear that the manner in which this country deals with the problem has to change. Unfortunately, thanks to misleading information put out by the government and child protection charities, most members of the public are entirely ignorant as to the truth of sex offending in Britain today.

This is hardly surprising when one considers that every recent administration has embarked on the same pointless exercise and disgraceful waste of money, trying desperately to convince everyone that the danger to children lies with strangers when, in reality, the true danger is at the front door.

It is an equally pointless exercise to go along with the tabloids and describe sex offenders as ‘fiends’ and ‘monsters’ when in fact there are now so many sex offences on the Statute Book that almost anyone could find themselves accused of a sex crime at some point, either through ignorance or false accusation.

Instead of looking across the Atlantic for answers and giving in to multi-million pound charities like the NSPCC and zealot-driven, money-making machines like ECPAT, the government should spend a great deal more on rehabilitation and a lot less on the post-release persecution and enforced segregation of those who have been released.

Those who are on licence should of course be supervised but supervised constructively by experienced probation officers with some experience of real life; not by some overgrown schoolgirl who has come straight from university and whose sole intention is to impress their boss by putting the offender back in prison at the first available excuse.

Those who have completed their sentence are by definition free and should be treated as such whilst being given support where it is needed in order to find work, etc.

Finally, there are many in government and law and order who believe that the Sex Offenders Register is a waste of money, counter-productive, ineffective and – in the way in which it is implemented – possibly unlawful.

The register always was – and still is – a political device that keeps people employed (not least through the very dubious and hugely expensive MAPPA system), gives a false sense of security to parents and the public, is by definition a reactive process and as such has yet to be shown to have ever prevented a crime from taking place.

The government, police, prison service, probation service and others seriously need to reconsider the way in which the protection of children from sex offenders is approached.

The American system has failed miserably and has nearly bankrupted some US states; the British system, which attempts to copy the US, is directed towards the wrong people, also costs a fortune and is based on a lie, misinformation and political and monetary profit.

The only people in Britain to benefit from the current emphasis on ‘stranger danger’ are ambitious or indolent MPs, those employed in the massive child protection industry in Britain and over-paid officials who get a lot of money for doing very little other than propping up a failed system that has not worked in the past and will not work in the future.

Sex offenders need rehabilitation perhaps more than any other group of offenders and the government should get on with it. And for those rather silly people who readily swallow the effluent produced by tabloid newspapers and others with vested interests, there is no point either in locking up sex offenders and ‘throwing away the key’.

At the current rate of increase in convictions, if one were to do that we would very quickly end up with a large proportion of the male, working population of the country in jail, living off the taxpayer for years and being unemployable when they came out; there would follow a fall in tax revenue and additional prison and family maintenance costs.

TheOpinionSite.org believes that real rehabilitation of sex offenders really is the answer. We are not Americans and have no need to follow them like sheep. Reform of such a politically sensitive issue may be difficult but it is not impossible. It may be a bitter pill for MPs to swallow but swallow it they must.

To leave things as they are is courting disaster; a disaster that will grow and grow and eventually become unmanageable. All for the sake of spending rather more now and getting people out of prison and into work.

This is also about the difference between justice and revenge.

What exactly is so complicated about any of this? It all seems rather obvious to many people but not, is seems, to those in government who are all apparently terrified of criticism, are generally weak and cowardly and, in many cases, are seemingly too thick and stupid to see the consequences of allowing things to stay as they are.


VA - Juvenile case highlights flaw in Sex Offender Registry

Original Article

01/02/2012

By Frank Green

In 2007, [name withheld], then 15, was convicted in Stafford County of forcibly raping a 14-year-old friend who has a history of making false accusations.

To avoid trial as an adult and a sentence of up to life in prison, [name withheld] pleaded guilty in juvenile court. Two months later, the girl said the sex with [name withheld] was consensual.

[name withheld] was released after 17 months in the juvenile correctional system. But he is still dealing with a life sentence of a different kind — his name, photograph and address, mapped — are on the Virginia Sex Offender Registry.

Unless the law changes, the courts toss out the conviction or the governor grants a pardon, he will be on the registry until he dies. His parents and lawyers now hope to make it possible for some juveniles to get off sex offender registries.

[name withheld]'s mother, [accused mother name withheld], and [accuser mother name withheld], the mother of the girl who now says she wrongly accused him, appeared before the Virginia State Crime Commission recently pleading for help.

"Young people like [name withheld] want an opportunity to get off the registry when a mistake like this is made," [accused mother name withheld] said. "It was bad enough that he was locked up … because a frightened young girl lied, but to continue to ruin his life, it's inconceivable," she said.

[accuser mother name withheld] agreed and told the commission, "Please give [name withheld] and those who may find themselves in a horrible situation a way to get their life back on track."

"I would never have dreamed it would be this difficult to correct a mistake in the legal justice system," she said. "I wish very much that my daughter had not accused [name withheld]."

According to the Virginia State Crime Commission, almost any adult — or juvenile tried as an adult — convicted of a sex offense goes on the sex offender registry where their personal information and convictions are available to the public.

Juveniles older than 13 and "adjudicated delinquent" of a sex crime in juvenile court are required to register if, as in [name withheld]'s case, the judge determines that circumstances warrant it.

Andrew K. Block, director of the Child Advocacy Clinic at the University of Virginia School of Law, said a current law permitting a wrongly convicted person to prove their innocence in the Virginia Court of Appeals applies to people "convicted" of crimes.

Juveniles, he said, are "adjudicated delinquent," not "convicted," and it is unclear if they can seek a "writ of actual innocence" based on non-DNA evidence. Also, he said, such writs cannot be sought by people who have pleaded guilty, as did [name withheld].

"The lack of eligibility for young people who plead guilty is particularly problematic for kids who are the least sophisticated of all criminal defendants," Block said.

Block said studies have shown juveniles are more likely to plead guilty to crimes they did not commit than adults.

State Del. Gregory D. Habeeb, R-Salem, said he will introduce legislation that would permit juveniles who pleaded guilty to crimes — which would be considered felonies in adult court — to be eligible to file for a writ of actual innocence.

"A juvenile pleads guilty sometimes for different reasons than a grown-up," Habeeb said. "We don't pass legislation for one person. But I think oftentimes one person can highlight a hole in legislation."

There are legitimate reasons not to support a change in the law, Habeeb said. For example, he said, often a prosecutor accepts a guilty plea knowing the defendant will not be able to later seek a writ of actual innocence.

But, Habeeb said, "as a very conservative Republican, my view is that it is better to err on the side of not doing a wrong to somebody, especially when it comes to kids. … This bill wouldn't make a whole bunch of felons innocent."

With the next General Assembly session coming up soon, seeking a change in the writ of actual innocence law would be a more manageable goal than trying to change the sex offender registry, he said.

[name withheld] still might be unable to meet the high burden set to prove innocence, but at least he would have access to the process, Habeeb said.

Meanwhile, [name withheld]'s lawyers are pursuing additional remedies including appealing his conviction on the grounds that his trial lawyer did not perform up to constitutionally acceptable standards and he should be given a new trial or have his adjudication tossed.

His appeal has been rejected by a circuit court judge who said that because [name withheld] is no longer behind bars, the court lacks jurisdiction. That ruling has been appealed, and the case will be argued before the Virginia Supreme Court on Jan. 13.

Complicating matters for [name withheld] is that court papers indicate [name withheld]'s trial lawyer said [name withheld] admitted having sex with the girl against her will, a development that led the lawyer to recommend [name withheld] plead guilty to avoid trial as an adult.

Deirdre M. Enright, with the Innocence Project at the University of Virginia School of Law, said she was not at liberty to discuss the pending case in detail, but she said [name withheld] strongly denies ever confessing wrongdoing to his lawyer.