John Walsh, right, gives a thumbs up as President Bush, left, looks on, Thursday, July 27, 2006, during a signing ceremony
for the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act (AP Photo, Pablo Martinez Monsivais
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President Bush, seated, gets a thumbs up from John Walsh, center, as Walsh's wife Reve Walsh, left, looks on, Thursday,
July 27, 2006. (AP / Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Former Toronto Police Sex Crimes Unit detective Paul Gillespie.
New U.S. registry gets tough on sex offenders
Updated Thu. Jul. 27 2006 11:33 PM ET
CTV.ca News Staff
Canadian law enforcement officials watched with interest and some envy Thursday as President George Bush signed sweeping
legislation that requires convicted sex offenders to be registered in a national database in the United States.
The U.S. has pulled ahead of Canada, officials say, because the U.S. is providing resources to make the U.S. national registry
Canada has had a national sex offender registry since December 2004 that requires convicted offenders to let police know
It requires them to register with Canada's National Sex Offender Database within 15 days of being released from prison
or after ordered by a court to register.
Ontario's sex offender registry legislation (called Christopher's Law) is considered by Canadian law enforcement officials
to be the best of such laws in Canada, Paul Gillespie, the former head of Toronto Police Services' Child Exploitation Section,
told CTV Newsnet Thursday.
Although Ontario's law has some teeth in it, Gillespie said, "it is provincial legislation, and if you don't do as you're
told, you are simply guilty of a provincial offences act and are facing a fine. If you don't want to be involved with it anymore
you simply move out of Ontario and there is no onus on you not to."
Canada's national sex offender registry "is, in my opinion, a waste of legislation," Gillespie said.
"As a police officer in Toronto I did not have direct access to our federal sex offender registry because of privacy concerns
around the people on the registry," Gillespie told CTV Newsnet.
"If I wanted to find out and confirm if somebody was on it, if I had the name of a suspect -- I would have to go through
the provincial police who would then contact the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and they would only confirm that that individual
was actually on the registry."
The RCMP would not provide any additional information on someone in the registry unless police had already determined he
was a suspect in a particular case, Gillespie said.
"My problem with this is that if I have a bad sexual assault, I think the place to look will be the registry, which keeps
track of people who would do something like this."
But under existing law, law enforcement officials do not have access to that registry.
The U.S. legislation, on the other hand, is tremendous, said Gillespie.
Bush signs bill
The U.S. law is named the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act after Adam Walsh, a six-year-old Florida boy who was
abducted and murdered 25 years ago. It creates a national registry through which states can share information about sex offenders.
Gillespie praised the work of Adam's father, John Walsh, in helping move the U.S. legislation forward.
Walsh, who has made a career out of chasing criminals and is now the host of "America's Most Wanted," has been the prime
mover behind the law.
"It allows more resources for law enforcement to go after pedophiles," said Gillespie. "It allows for more resources for
law enforcement to monitor them and make sure they do as they're told."
The U.S. law makes provisions for tracking bracelets in serious cases and provides very strict sentences in place for sexual
crimes against children, said Gillespie. And if convicted offenders choose to go from state to state they must register.
"I just hope that in Canada we can start moving toward something very similar," he said.
"It's scientifically proven that those who have a sexual interest in children can't be cured," said Gillespie. "They will
repeat this behaviour and will not stop. The fact that we do a very poor job in Canada of monitoring them and try to hold
them accountable with very limited resources - and this is a very big concern."
Convicted offenders in Canada are required to re-register every year and within 15 days of moving to a new address.
Canada's law requires offenders to provide local police with their name, address, telephone number, any aliases and any
identifying marks. They can be charged if they fail to provide new information within the required time.
But if offenders are caught in breach of their conditions, "well, big deal, they get a fine. How is that a deterrent?"
In contrast, Adam's Law in the U.S. will:
- Establish a federal database pf DNA from convicted pedophiles and provide routine collection and comparison of DNA when
an offender has been convicted.
- Provide federal funding to states to to allow them to track convicted molesters using global positioning devices.
- Provide a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years for raping a child, a mandatory 10-year penalty for sex trafficking of
children or coercing child prostitution and increases the minimum sentence for molesters who travel between states.
- Increase penalties for downloading child pornography and raises civil penalties from $50,000 to $150,000.
The U.S. law will allow victims to sue their molesters and will change existing legislation to permit victims over the
age of 18 to recover damages from anyone who has downloaded images of them as children.
The law will keep the most serious offenders registered in the database for life. Failing to update the information is
punishable by 10 years in prison.
Walsh has said that some states have very poor, small or ineffective registries and that the lack of a national registry
has allowed offenders to elude supervision by moving to a different state. More than 100,000 offenders have dropped out of
sight, he said, and this national database will allow federal authorities to track offenders from state to state.
In Canada, critics have also expressed anger with Canada's national registry because it applies only to those convicted
of sex offences on or after the day the legislation came into force.
In addition, there are also worries about how the national registry will stand up to a constitutional challenge. While
Ontario's sex offender registry is widely considered to be more enforceable, a judge declared Ontario's registry law unconstitutional
in 2004. The province is appealing.
Cambridge Conservative MPP Gerry Martiniuk has called for the records to be made available to the public, saying that he
wants to give parents as much information as possible to protect their children from sexual predators.
But investigators believe Canadian Stephen A. Marshall, suspected of murdering two men in Maine this past April, may have
identified his alleged victims from a U.S. registry that publishes the names, photographs, and sometimes even the street addresses
of convicted offenders on the Internet.