Violent Offender Register
Violent Offender Registers (“VOR’s”) are designed to protect the public from violent offenders by requiring them to register with the local law enforcement agency in the jurisdiction where they reside. Information about these offenders is then made available to the public.
There is a compelling argument in providing the public with information about people convicted of violent offences. This information can help all citizens protect themselves and their children from violent offenders, many of whom (statistics show) will repeat the offence (or similar) for which they were originally convicted.
It is important to note that the purpose of community notification is to reduce the chances of future victimisation by an offender. The information contained in such VOR’s is basic safety information intended to assist each individual and their families across Ireland to avoid situations that allow easy access to potential victims.
Violent offenders of course reside everywhere on release from prison, or after conviction. However, individuals and their families need to follow basic safety measures regardless of whether an offender moves into or out of their locality. Violent offenders, like anyone else, establish friendships and business relationships in the area they live in. Even if an offender moves to another part of town or another county, they maintain these relationships and visit other areas where they have established relationships.
Courts should also be allowed to impose certain restrictions on the movements of offenders post release, particularly in or around the neighbourhood where their victim(s) family(s) reside.
A VOR will give the families of homicide victims a real sense of security and peace of mind once they were informed as to the location of the offender post their release.
Furthermore, a VOR will allow An Garda Siochanna to clearly monitor the whereabouts of all unlawful killers. Currently only convicted murderers are released with any form of monitoring and there is real uncertainty as to how this operates. Those convicted of manslaughter or other unlawful killings are not monitored post release yet they may well present an equally dangerous threat to families of the victims and the general public. A VOR would remedy this situation.
The VOR proposed by AdVIC is not a charter to incite a convicted violent offender to further violence that may live in any given area. AdVIC is not advocating harassment of such people. An offender who is put in a fearful or stressful state is more likely to relapse and commit further violent offences. This protects no one.
VOR’s in Practice
In the U.S. there are three states that require violent offenders to register namely Kansas, Montana, and Oklahoma. All three require registration for offenders who commit homicides but the states vary in the types of other crimes that are included. All three require 10 year registration for first time offenders and lifetime registration for repeat offenders. Some other offenders must register for life. For example, in Montana, a person convicted of a violent crime that requires registration whom does not register or keep his registration current must register for life.
Montana also allows an offender to petition the court to end his registration: the court must grant the petition if the person’s required 10 year registration is over and the court may grant it to end lifetime registration in certain circumstances
In the United Kingdom, the Violent and Sex Offender Register (ViSOR) is a databaseof records of those required to register with the Police under the Sexual Offences Act 2003, those jailed for more than 12 months for violent offences, and unconvicted people simply thought to be at risk of offending.
The Register can be accessed by the Police, National Probation Service, and HM Prison Service Private companies running prisons are also granted access.
Notification Periods for offenders
Imprisonment for life or for 30 months or more, imprisonment for public protection, or admission to hospital under restriction order, or subject to an Order for Lifelong Restriction: Notification Period: Indefinitely
Imprisonment for more than 6 but less than 30 months: Notification Period: 10 years
Imprisonment for 6 months or less, or admission to hospital without restriction order: Notification Period: 7 years
Caution: Notification Period: 2 years
Any other: Notification Period: 5 years
Finite notification periods are halved if the person is under 18 when convicted or cautioned.
AdVIC Proposes “cherry picking” the most successful elements from VOR’s already in place in other jurisdictions.
Specifically AdVIC proposes using the current UK model as a template for an Irish VOR – elements as they relate to sexual offenders are not relevant to this draft proposal.
While it is AdVIC’s submission that those convicted of homicide should be subject to lifelong registration, AdVIC recognises that challenges have recently been made in the High Court in England & Wales and furthermore that such lifelong registration may run contrary to Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights. Therefore for those convicted of homicide AdVIC is proposing an indefinite period of registration subject to a minimum period of 20 years on the Register.
Violent offenders do not necessarily stay in one place from week to week. For this reason violent offenders who reside at multiple addresses should be required to register their primary residence and any additional addresses. Offenders may live most of the time at one residence, but often stay with friends or relatives on weekends or over the holidays. An offender may therefore be only an occasional resident at additional addresses listed in the Registry.
The UK ViSOR database holds name and address records, photographs, risk assessment, offenders’ modus operandi, and an audit trail. The Police National Computer is linked to ViSOR. It is proposed that a similar system of tracking be set up within Ireland linked to the central criminal data base in Garda HQ.
More stringent requirements are in place for sex offenders in the UK re notification. Sex offenders there must inform the police within 3 days of becoming subject to the notification requirements, or within 3 days of various changes occurring including moving home, changing their name, changes of passport details. Such offenders must confirm their registration annually. Failure to comply is an offence, subject to a penalty of up to five years imprisonment. AdVIC proposes a similar set of requirements be put in place for all violent offenders under a new VOR in the Republic of Ireland.
A VOR is not, and cannot be concerned with retribution. It is a simple registry of violent offenders so that those at risk from violent offenders on release may make informed choices so as to avoid any potential contact with themselves or their families.