Published: 05 April 2021
Mr Murali Pillai: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs what assistance can be provided to parents of minors who wish to make background checks of persons to ascertain that they have not been convicted of sexual offences against minors before engaging them as freelance tutors or instructors for their children.
The approach taken today is to try and balance between ensuring that persons who have committed serious sexual crimes are not employed in positions which may put children at risk; and at the same time, not to add to the stigmatisation of ex-offenders and hinder their rehabilitation and reintegration.
To strike this balance, the Registration of Criminals Act allows the Police to maintain a non-public record of persons convicted of serious offences, including sexual offences. Agencies such as MOE and MSF work closely with the Police to screen prospective employees who are applying for jobs working with children, such as those in licensed preschools and schools.
However, as these records are non-public, members of the public, including parents, do not have access to them.
We are considering whether more steps need to be taken, to make it mandatory that all persons employed in similar sectors working with children be screened. There are some practical difficulties in taking this approach, which we are thinking through.
It is a further step, from that, to allow parents to screen potential tutors for the tutors’ past offences. I can see the reasonableness in the MP’s request. However, it will be little short of having a public registry of a person’s criminal antecedents. The information could easily become public. And that has its own consequences.
As far as we know, only the U.S. has a public sex offender registry. One research study found that convicted offenders on the registry are more likely to reoffend, as the resultant exclusion from their neighbourhood, job loss, and anxiety problems are counterproductive. The registered sex offenders and their family members have also experienced stigmatisation, harassment, and abuse.
We will need to consider the consequences and see if we should provide for further pathways for checking a person’s criminal antecedents, beyond the current approach.