Will child sex crime offenders be placed on special register?

The case of a man who was allowed to work with children after twice raping a minor has led the authorities to consider blacklisting offenders of child sex crimes.

The rape of a child by a perpetrator who had committed the same crime previously aroused outrage among parents in Czechia back in 2008. The court slapped the man with a six-year sentence the second time round, but several years later he was still able to set up a children’s group with weekend events and camps.  No law prohibited him from doing so. Earlier this year, he sexually abused seven other children at one of the camps. The youngest was not even five years old.

Photo: illustrative: EME,  Pixabay,  Pixabay License

The case has sent shockwaves around the country and the authorities have finally swung into action. The justice ministry, interior ministry and the ministry of education are working together on a set of  measures that would better protect children and minors from repeat offenders. One of the proposals on the table is a register of offenders who have committed child abuse. Justice Ministry spokesman Vladimír Řepka explains.

“The purpose of such a register would be to prevent children from coming into contact with people who have committed child abuse of a sexual nature in the past. These people should not be allowed to come into regular contact with children since it creates an increased risk of repeat offenses.”

Police deal with around 30 cases each year in which children were sexually abused by someone who was supposed to mind or teach them. People whose name was placed on such a list would not be able to set up children’s hobby groups, babysit or give them private lessons.

The register would include people convicted of sexually motivated crimes committed against children i.e. rape, sexual coercion, crimes involving child pornography, prostitution or enticement to have sex.

Pavel Blažek | Photo: René Volfík,  Czech Radio

Who would decide on the registration of offenders is not yet clear. Two options are in play. According to one, offenders of the above-mentioned offences would automatically be placed on the list, while the other would be decided by a court.

Justice Minister Pavel Blažek is inclined towards the latter option in view of the damage done by automatic registration in cases such as those of a 15-year-old who has consensual sex with a 14-year-old.

What offenders on the register would not be allowed to do is being determined by the Education Ministry, which has compiled a list of professions and activities covered by the term "working with children".

The list includes teachers, psychologists, coaches, instructors in schools and non-profit organizations, but also janitors, maintenance workers, security guards and employees in youth homes and boarding schools.

There is now a debate underway as to whether the ban should be permanent or temporary.

František Čihák | Photo: Milan Kopecký,  Czech Radio

František Čihák, a forensic expert in psychiatry and sexology, says the ban should be life-long and anyone who has ever harmed a child should never be allowed to work with them again.

"A lot of pedophiles enjoy looking at children, spending time with them and never cross the line. But if someone does, then that is a warning sign and they should never be allowed to work with them again.”

According to Justice Ministry spokesperson Vladimír Řepka, the length of the ban is still being discussed, as is the question of who would have access to the register.

Politicians are proposing that people working with children should have to request a “clean record” certificate, stating that they are not on the register. While parents could thus make sure they are entrusting their children to someone who will not harm them, it would not be possible for someone to check up on a neighbor or acquaintance. The details of how the system would work and who would operate it are still being debated and the proposed changes would have to be approved by Parliament within an amendment to the law.

Authors: Daniela Lazarová , Artur Janoušek
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