By AARON BESWICK TRURO BUREAU
Canada is getting an online public database of convicted sex offenders, but it’s not being run by the government.
It’s being set up by the Sexual Abuse Network of Canada and was expected to go online Thursday night.
“We have about 260 verified names right now for the list and another 400 we are verifying right now,” Dave Mantin, director of the network, said Thursday from Saint John, N.B.
“We have contacted a legal team and they have explained to me and given me documentation on how to do this word for word.”
Mantin said the website, is a three-tier system with varying amounts of information on convicted sex offenders available to police, journalists and the public.
The general public will not require a password to access the site and will be able to get the identity and convictions of an offender. They will also be able to access “the general vicinity of where the perpetrator resides,” Mantin said.
His organization will provide log-in information to journalists from what he called “reputable media outlets” that will allow them to access all the information held by the organization except for names of victims.
Police officers will also be provided with their own log-ins that will give them full access to the information.
Mantin said data will be collected from “reputable newspapers” and confirmed with court documentation.
Online registries of convicted sex offenders have resulted in vigilantism.
In 2006, a Cape Breton man used a registry run by the Maine government to access information about two convicted sex offenders who were subsequently murdered. Twenty-year-old Stephen Marshall killed himself on a bus in Boston when he was approached by police regarding the deaths.
David Fraser, a privacy lawyer with the McInnes Cooper law firm in Halifax, said he has “grave concerns” with the registry.
“What kind of accountability is there with this database?” Fraser said.
“I have grave concerns with the accuracy and where they’re getting their information. If your information is misreported in a government database, you have a right to have that corrected. What mechanisms does this group have?”
Fraser said the group could be endangering the reputation and safety of someone with a name similar to a convicted person who lives in the same area.
“These things do tend to lead to vigilantism,” he said.
Mantin said such cases were “rare” and had to be balanced against the public’s right to know.
- They do happen and they are increasing (See here).
“I’ve spoken to both the RCMP and local police agencies, and they’ve both informed me that if a road officer wants to know if Joe Blow is on the federal sex crime registry, he can’t just go look it up.”
“He has to fill out a request form, have it authorized by his sergeant and then have the sergeant take it to the sex crime registry to be searched.”
This claim couldn't be immediately confirmed with police agencies.
Police are obligated to release the names of people deemed to be a high risk to reoffend when they are released into the community after serving their sentences. Mantin said he believes the public should be aware not only of these people but anyone who has committed a sex crime against a minor.
He called the registry “another tool for people to protect their children.”
When asked whether he might be concerned about potential legal action, Mantin said, “We’ve got lawyers.”
- But how much money do you have?