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Sex offender has reporting conditions wiped for life in first case of its kind

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The first registered sex offender in Victoria to have his reporting obligations suspended for life could pave the way for more than 140 others with similar cases to also be freed from onerous conditions.

For years, Michael* avoided dropping his sons off at kindergarten and attending the birthday parties of their friends, worried about what would happen if other parents found out he was a convicted sex offender.

The man has filed a bid to have his reporting obligations suspended in the Supreme Court of Victoria.Credit: Darrian Traynor

But on Thursday, the 36-year-old successfully argued in the Supreme Court he should be freed from conditions that required him to tell police of any contact he had with children other than his own for the rest of his life.

The father, from regional Victoria, was listed on the sex offenders register more than 15 years ago, after he was charged with three counts of sexually penetrating his teenage girlfriend. Michael was 20 at the time and his girlfriend was 15.

The Supreme Court heard three others had already applied to have their conditions suspended and more than 140 other offenders could now be influenced by the ruling.

Court documents filed on Michael’s behalf and obtained by The Age state that the pair were in a consensual relationship approved by both their parents – before his former girlfriend’s mother reported him to the police in 2007.

Michael admitted having sex with the teen during a police interview and was charged with three counts of sexual penetration of a child under the age of 16. His girlfriend did not provide a statement to police at the time.

Michael was sentenced without conviction and placed on a good behaviour bond for 12 months in 2007 after County Court Judge Jeanette Morrish found his actions were “at the lower end of the scale of this type of offending”.

Under Victorian legislation, he was also placed on the sex offender register and became the subject of reporting obligations due to the number of charges he had faced.

In a character reference provided to the court, Michael’s wife detailed the emotional toll the “cruel and painful” unscheduled visits of child protection workers had on her husband and his reluctance to get involved in their children’s school for fears the agency would contact other parents.

“As our boys grow older, starting school, forming friendships, and joining sports clubs, we are constantly worrying about keeping up-to-date and abiding by the rules of reporting and making sure we are doing everything right by the law,” she said.

In a submission to the court, Doogue + George, the law firm representing Michael, said a forensic psychological assessment had found no evidence he suffered from any sexual deviancy and determined he was at low risk of future sexual offending.

“It is respectfully submitted that relying on the above considerations, the Supreme Court should make an order suspending [Michael]’s reporting obligations,” it read. “It is submitted that the period of suspension should be for the remainder of his life.”

Psychologist Angela Sorotos told the Supreme Court that she believed Michael was a low risk of future “sexual violence” as he had not offended during the past 10 years.

The court also heard that the complainant was supportive of the application and said she didn’t believe there should ever have been a report made to police – something Justice Michael Croucher said was “significant”.

In handing down his decision to grant the request, Croucher acknowledged this was the first application of its kind. Legal representatives for Victoria Police’s police chief commissioner said they were preparing for more than 140 other sex offenders, deemed potentially “eligible”, to apply.

Michael and his wife, who attended court for the hearing, sobbed and held hands as the ruling was handed down.

“I say to you … best of luck,” Croucher said.

*Not his real name.

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