The Supreme Court of New South Wales ruled last week that a 'high-risk' convicted child sex offender can return to the region where he broke into a home and sexually assaulted a four-year old girl.
Residents of Grafton in Northern New South Wales have expressed outraged about the order, which means that Ronald Dean King will once again live in the region, albeit under strict conditions.
Those condition are pursuant to what's known as an extended supervision order – which is an order facilitating supervision after the release of a person who has served his or her entire sentence if there is a "high degree of probability that... [he or she] poses an unacceptable risk of committing a serious sex offence if he or she is not kept under supervision".
Of particular concern to local is the fact that psychologists who assessed Mr King's prospects for rehabilitation have expressed the view that he continues to pose a "significant risk of engaging in further sex offending behaviours in the community in the long-term".
Sexual assault of a four-year-old
In November 2007, Mr King broke into a home in Grafton in Northern New South Wales while intoxicated, walked into the child's bedroom, undressed and began to sexual assault her while she was asleep. The young girl awoke during the attack.
The assailant left his underwear behind, which provided the DNA sample that led to his arrest.
During his trial, the court heard that King had also broken into two other homes and entered the bedrooms of girls aged 7 and 11, but had not abused those children.
He was initially given a two-year suspended prison sentence in February 2009.
However, the sentence was overturned by the Court of Criminal Appeal which it to be "manifestly inadequate", sentencing him to seven years behind bars.
History on non-compliance since release
Mr King was released on parole in 2012 and ordered to live in Sydney, but subsequently breached his release conditions on numerous occasions.
Some of those breaches include the failure to abstain from drugs and alcohol or to attend required appointments.
He was also found to have to have "maintain[ed] unhealthy attitudes toward sex", and to have barely engaged with court-ordered risk management programs.
In 2015, a court placed Mr King on an extended supervision order in an attempt to control his behaviour, but he tested positive for the methamphetamine shortly thereafter.
He subsequently committed nine breaches of the order and has been in and out of prison for several years.
Permitted to return home
But last week, New South Wales Supreme Court Judge David Davies SC ruled that although the order must remain in place, Mr King can return to his hometown, McLean in Northern Rivers.
McLean is only a 30 minute drive from Grafton, where Mr King sexually assaulted the four year old girl.
Mr King's lawyers have long campaigned for his return to McLean, where he is close to his family, familiar surroundings and support systems.
Orders that apply
Mr King is no longer required to abstain from alcohol, with the judge finding this to be an unrealistic expectation which will simply set him up for failure. However, he is require to request and be granted permission by his supervisor at least 24 hours before drinking.
He is not to associate with children, but may have adults stay at his home, if his supervisor allows it.
While Mr King's life will be closely monitored, his community remains concerned that a child sex offender is about to be released into a small community close to where he is familiar with the layout and homes and has previously offended – especially because the area does not have a strong police presence.
Like many regional police stations, the McLean Police Station is not open 24 hours a day – instead relying on Coffs Clarence Regional Command some 115 kilometres away.
Family and supervision
That said, there is research to suggest that offenders who return to their family environments after being released from prison are less likely to reoffend than those who are not, and more likely to turn their lives around and became gainful members of their communities.
It is hoped that this, together with the supervision order, will protect against future offending.
What is an Extended Supervision Order in New South Wales?
The Crimes (Serious Sex Offenders) Act 2006 (NSW) ('the Act') contains mechanisms by which the State of NSW can apply to extend the supervision of certain offenders in the community beyond their full term sentences; in other words, beyond the expiry of their periods on parole.
Section 6 of the Act empowers the State to apply to the Supreme Court for an extended supervision order against a sex offender who, when the application is made, is in custody or under supervision:
1. while serving a sentence of imprisonment:
(i) for a serious sex offence, or
(ii) for an offence of a sexual nature, or
(iii) for another offence which is being served concurrently or consecutively, or partly concurrently and partly consecutively, with one or more sentences of imprisonment referred to above whether the sentence is being served by way of full-time detention, intensive correction in the community or home detention and whether the offender is in custody or on release on parole, or
2. pursuant to an existing extended supervision order or continuing detention order.
An application cannot be made earlier than six months before the expiry of an offender's sentence.
Section 5 of the Act defines 'serious sex offence' to cover a broad range of offences of a sexual nature, including those carrying a maximum penalty of at least 7 year in prison, such as:
- sexual act with a child under 10,
- aggravated sexual touching,
- all sexual assaults,
- persistent sexual abuse of a child,
- procuring or grooming a child under 16,
- sexual servitude, and
- producing, disseminating or possessing child abuse material.
Section 9 of the Act stipulates that "[A]n extended supervision order may be made if and only if the Supreme Court is satisfied to a high degree of probability that the offender poses an unacceptable risk of committing a serious sex offence if he or she is not kept under supervision".
Section 10 provides that an extended supervision order commences when it is made, or when the offender is release, whichever is the latter, and continues for the time specified in the order but cannot exceed give years.
The section states that further applications can be made for such orders within 6 months of the expiry of an existing order.
Section 11 outlines that the conditions of an extended supervision order can include, but are not limited to, directions requiring the offender to:
(a) permit any corrective services officer to visit the offender at the offender's residential address at any time and, for that purpose, to enter the premises at that address, or
(a1) permit any corrective services officer to access any computer or related equipment that is at the offender's residential address or in the possession of the offender, or
(b) make periodic reports to a corrective services officer, or
(c) notify a corrective services officer of any change in his or her address, or
(d) participate in treatment and rehabilitation programs, or
(e) wear electronic monitoring equipment, or
(e1) reside at an address approved by the Commissioner of Corrective Services, or
(f) not reside in or resort to specified locations or classes of locations, or
(g) not associate or make contact with specified persons or classes of persons, or
(h) not engage in specified conduct or classes of conduct, or
(i) not engage in specified employment or classes of employment, or
(j) not change his or her name.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.