Saturday, July 6, 2013

FL - Police: Sex offender lurking around courthouse

Original Article

Come on, did any officer bother to ask him what he is doing there?

07/03/2013

By Vic Micolucci

JACKSONVILLE - Police in Jacksonville have issued a warning about a registered sex offender hanging around near the Duval County Courthouse.

Jacksonville police said they had noticed [name withheld] throughout the day in certain areas on the property. Officers began an email, which was forwarded to courthouse employees, such as those at the Clerk of Courts.

[name withheld] has convictions of several crimes, including attempted sexual battery with a weapon, kidnapping and aggravated stalking.

[name withheld] is described as a black man with brown eyes, 5 feet tall and 163 pounds.

Those who work at or are going to the courthouse are urged to be extra cautious and walk in groups if possible.

"I mean, am I supposed to take somebody with me every time I go to the courthouse?" Marteal Lamb said. "I mean, he has his rights. It's a public area. I'm not sure."

Police said [name withheld] is not committing any crimes for hanging around the property, but they are warning people about his presence for safety reasons.

"Very shocked to know that someone with that demeanor is hanging around the courthouse," said Michelle Grant, who works at the courthouse. "I try to stay in the building as much as possible, and then at the end of the day when I come out I'm always looking around to be aware of my surroundings."

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MI - Taxpayers pay costs for breach

Shana Rowan
Shana Rowan
Original Article

07/05/2013

By Shana Rowan (Website, Blog)

I agree with Autumn Smith’s June 28 sentiment that law enforcement ought to represent honesty, integrity, and transparency.

I expect the same from community advocates. That is why her portrayal of [name withheld], and outrage at his apparent failure to keep his employment information updated, was so problematic.

Let me be clear: sex offenders have a duty to keep their addresses, employment, and other personal information up-to-date with authorities.

It’s their responsibility to follow the laws and if they don’t, punishment will follow.

That being said, there’s quite a bit of gray area between a serious absconder looking to skip town so they can commit new crimes, and a person trying their best to move on with their life, who makes an unintentional but serious error by not updating their information in a timely manner.

In 2011, Minnesota Department of Corrections released a report that found no connection whatsoever between sex offenders who failed to register and sexual re-offense. Yes, Failure to Register (FTR) is a felony, but automatically “dangerous?” No.

Had Ms. Smith taken the time to research this subject just a bit, she might not have been so outraged.

Two decades of research have conclusively found sex offender recidivism to be almost always in the single digits, and that overwhelmingly, victims are abused by people they know — not strangers.

These two factors seriously dilute the effectiveness of the registry laws she points out.

It is one thing to know the law, and another entirely to understand its actual impact on community safety.

FTR-related offenses in Michigan are numerous; there are at least seven different purely administrative violations of the sex offender registry act.

As of December 2012, 450 people were incarcerated in prisons throughout the state for FTR-related convictions. The cost to taxpayers? Nearly $12 million.

Surely citizens have a right to know how much these laws are costing them, and evaluate whether or not the growing costs are justifiable.

Lastly, Mr. [name withheld] and his loved ones are taxpayers and citizens too.

Ms. Smith’s column has now opened them up to potential dangers from citizens who may decide to retaliate, especially because her characterization of Mr. [name withheld] is so one-sided.

Hopefully, her next column will examine every side of an issue and utilize facts instead of emotions.


AUSTRALIA - False abuse claims are the new court weapon, retiring judge says

Justice David Collier
Justice David Collier
Original Article

07/06/2013

By Harriet Alexander

Allegations of child sexual abuse are being increasingly invented by mothers to stop fathers from seeing their children, says a retiring Family Court judge.

Justice David Collier, retiring from Parramatta Family Court at the end of the month after 14 years on the bench, sees unprecedented hostility infiltrating the Family Court, and a willingness by parents to use their children to damage one another.

"If a husband and wife really get down to it in this day and age, dirt flies," Justice Collier said.

The worst are those mothers who direct false allegations of abuse against former partners.

"When you have heard the evidence, you realise that this is a person who's so determined to win that he or she will say anything. I'm satisfied that a number of people who have appeared before me have known that it is one of the ways of completely shutting husbands out of the child's life."

"It's a horrible weapon."

Such cases are fraught for Family Court judges. Once an allegation has been made it is impossible to ignore. The court must deem whether there is an "unacceptable risk" of abuse occurring in the father's care.

Sometimes the allegations are obviously fabricated, other times they are probably true.

"It's that grey area in the middle that you lose sleep over at night, and you do lose sleep," Justice Collier said.

"They're difficult to disprove. The allegation lingers there."

Barrister Esther Lawson, who sits on the family law committee at the NSW Bar Association, said anecdotally there appeared to be an increase in allegations of sexual abuse coming before the court, but the reasons were unclear.

She also warned that the consequence of false allegations could return to haunt the accuser, including the loss of time with their children.

"Clearly there are cases where there is reliable evidence that sexual abuse has taken place and these matters need to be properly ventilated," Ms Lawson said.

"But if the court finds that allegations have been maliciously motivated then there may be potential consequences, including a change in the child's primary residence."

It is rare for Family Court judges to speak publicly about their views. Many are still haunted by the 1980 murder of Justice David Opas and 1984 bombings of the Parramatta Family Court building and homes of two judges.

Judgments are now more involved, partly so the losing party can understand the reasoning behind decisions. Justice Collier said the cases were also more complicated, as litigants raise more matters and run each of them to earth. Facebook pages are frequently called into evidence.

"A mother declares she lives a chaste and modest life and then on Facebook says, 'Guess what I did last night', and Dad's only too happy to put it before you."

He puts much of the venom down to a generation of people more assertive of their rights, and now entering relationships.

But it disheartens him to leave the court so, after a satisfying career. He used to keep a magic wand, which he has now passed on to his colleague Justice Bill Johnson.

"I wished I could wave that magic wand and say, 'Be nice to each other'," Justice Collier said. "That's the only order I would have to make."