My elderly mother was unwell and I wanted to visit her. She lives overseas and I’m on the Register, so I submitted a travel application to the police asking for permission to travel. I spent a lot of time on the application and waited weeks for a decision. When they finally got back to me, they told me I wasn’t allowed to go visit my sick mother. I was devastated. She could get worse, even die, and I wouldn’t be there by her side. My family have already suffered so much because of the Register and it feels like the suffering never ends.
Registered sex offenders find themselves continuing to pay a price long after they have served the punishment for the crime they committed. They are subject to onerous reporting obligations and immense stigma, leading them to feel isolated from society. Recent changes in the law have made this experience even more challenging as it is now very difficult for a registered offender to travel overseas.
As of 13 December 2017, it is an offence for a registered sex offender with reporting obligations to leave Australia without permission from a competent authority. This offence is punishable by five years’ imprisonment.1 For Victorian registered offenders, permission to travel whilst on the Register must be sought from the Victoria Police Sex Offenders Registry.
Importantly, the offence provision and the need to obtain permission to travel whilst on the Register do not apply to a person whose reporting obligations are suspended. The offence also only applies to registered offenders who are Australian citizens. (Registered offenders who are non-Australian citizens still need to notify the Chief Commissioner of Police at least 7 days before their departure from Australia as per their reporting obligations).
Our client was placed on the Register for 8 years for possession of child pornography. A year later, his mother became unwell and he wanted to travel overseas to visit her. He submitted a ‘Registered Offender Overseas Travel Application’ form, which asked for details of the his proposed travel, including the countries he intended to visit, his flight/transportation details, and his reasons for travel.
Our client was refused permission to travel and was distraught. He came to our firm asking if we could appeal the decision or make a new application. We submitted an application on his behalf for the same proposed trip, but we included a number of things our client hadn’t previously thought of.
Importantly, we included legal submissions on the purpose of the legislation – that is, to protect children from child sex tourism – and we argued that preventing our client from travelling in no way correlated with this purpose. We also guided the police on the factors they should take into account when making their decision, including the fact that our client had never breached his reporting obligations and had travelled overseas previously whilst on the Register. The police took into account our comprehensive application and ultimately decided to grant our client permission to travel.
From our experience, applicants have a much better chance of success if they receive help from a lawyer with their application. The application is deceptively difficult as police often want to know about the applicant’s history and why they are not a risk to children. They also expect the applicant to have a good reason for wanting to travel, and they usually require the applicant to provide supporting documentation. Our firm has experience in compiling detailed submissions on behalf of applicants which have resulted in successful outcomes.
If you have submitted your own application, and it is refused, do not accept the decision of the police as final. Often the police will call applicants and refuse their applications with no written reasons. If your overseas trip is important to you, and you want to submit a detailed application with a better chance of success, contact our office.
If you want to learn more about the Sex Offender Registry, you can read our ebook “Understanding the Sex Offender Registration Act”. Click below to access the ebook.