Israel a Sex Offender Friendly Country? - Government attempts to delay laws to protect children
Gov't trying to delay law protecting minors from sex offenders
By Ruth Sinai, Haaretz Correspondent
Haaretz - July 18, 2007
The government has asked the Knesset to postpone for a year implementation of a law aimed at protecting minors from sex offenders. As a result, hundreds of people who sexually assaulted minors are liable to be walking around without supervision.
The Knesset is due to vote on the government's proposal in a first reading today, and finish approving the deferral before it recesses next week.
The effort to subject sex offenders to supervision began nine years ago, when Yitzhak Kadman, head of the Council for the Welfare of the Child, first proposed the law. He explained that about 50 percent of sexual assault victims are minors.
The Knesset finally enacted the law in December 2005, and it was slated to be implemented in stages, starting in January 2006. However, the government was not yet ready to apply the law, so implementation of the first phase was postponed to October 1, 2006.
In that phase, some 140 ex-convicts were placed under supervision after being released. Those considered minimally dangerous merely had to provide a supervisor with certain details, such as their address and place of work, and inform him of any changes. More dangerous offenders were required to report to the supervisor periodically, with the most dangerous having to report every day. They were also barred from places likely to tempt them to recidivism, and forbidden to possess pornographic material or consume alcohol.
The next phase - which would expand the supervision program to anyone who assaulted a minor, including people who have been convicted but not yet sentenced - was supposed to begin this coming October 1. But the Ministry of Labor and Social Services, which is supposed to provide assessments of offenders' risk level in pre-sentencing hearings, has been unable to find enough qualified evaluators for the task, given the stringent training and experience requirements laid down in the regulations.
"If we don't have suitable evaluators, we are liable to release dangerous criminals, or to imprison offenders who could be treated in outpatient centers," explained Menachem Vagshel, the ministry's deputy director general.
Because it was unable to find trained evaluators, the ministry decided to train people itself. But that will take time, he said, and many will first need to acquire experience even after they are trained.
Another reason for the move to delay implementation, which is supported by the Health and Public Security ministries as well, is that the target population is larger than the 700 offenders that were forecast when the law was enacted. Therefore, more manpower than originally predicted is needed.
Kadman, who has been feverishly lobbying MKs to oppose the delay, retorted that the relevant ministries had almost two years to prepare for the expanded implementation. "This is a decline to new moral lows," he said. "The government, in its hardheartedness, is abandoning all our children to horrible assaults by sex offenders for another year."