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Disabled sex offender dilemma

A REPEAT child sex offender with a significant intellectual disability and the same mental age of his young victims has highlighted the legal predicament of what to do with such offenders.

This complex and morally thwart issue came before Judge James Black in Lismore District Court this week.

The defendant 'has an unfortunate background', the judge said. “It is accepted he is significantly intellectually disabled, that is highly relevant.”

During sentencing, it soon became apparent that a lengthy stay in jail was not appropriate for the man, even though he admitted to sexually assaulting the nine-year-old boy at a swimming hole in the Tweed region in 2007.

“In 2000 he was convicted of a similar offence of almost the same nature in Queensland and was sentenced to receive treatment,” the judge said. “It is quite clear that whatever was done did not succeed in curing of the offender.”

The man, a disability pensioner aged 32, had previously been found guilty of a sexual offence against a child in Queensland, but that court-ordered medical treatment at the time failed to help him.

NSW Police documents before the court considered him to be 'high risk' in reoffending and said the abused boy had been so traumatised by the assault he told police he wished his assailant was dead.

Judge Black, the Crown prosecutor and public defender Chris Bruce all acknowledged the difficulty in finding the right balance in sentencing.

On one hand they must protect the community, while on the other they must pay appropriate regard to the offender's mental issues, whose relationship capabilities are no more than that of a 10-year-old child.

One option presented to Judge Black by defence council Mr Bruce was a secure government-run residential facility in Orange that offers programs that could help the offender.

Mr Bruce argued his client was intellectually in the bottom one per cent of population for his age.

He said that when dealing with people who had intellectual disabilities their moral culpability was reduced.

Yet the problem remained: the victim deserved justice, but the State's jails have very limited rehabilitation programs, particularly ones suited for those with mental health issues.

In the end, conceding his sentencing was 'unusual', Judge Black ordered the offender to serve nine years and seven days' jail, with a non-parole of three months and seven days.

This technically made the offender eligible for parole this week.

However, the judge ordered that as a condition of the parole, the offender would have to spend it at the facility in Orange.He said the man should only be released if there was agreement between the Parole Board and the operators of the Orange facility.

“That seems to me to be the best way to protect the community long term, but involves a very unusual form of sentence,” he said.

However , The Northern Star understands the Parole Board will have to discuss the case, and with no guarantee the offender would be sent to Orange he could end up serving his entire sentence in a jail.

STATE OF MENTAL HEALTH
  • 2.7pc of the population have some form of intellectual disability.
  • 0.6pc of the population has a severe or profound intellectual disability.
  • 4.1pc of all Australians have a psychiatric issue, with 0.7pc having a severe or profound psychiatric disability.


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