Halifax Regional Police are applauding Ottawa’s plan to strengthen the national sex offender registry, but South Shore-St. Margarets MP Gerald Keddy admitted yesterday “it should have been done a long time ago.”
The changes would require all convicted sex offenders to be automatically added to the registry and to provide a DNA sample for the national database. Keddy announced the plan on behalf of federal Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan, who was to make good on an election promise by introducing the legislation yesterday.
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“When I read this piece of legislation over for the first time, I was shocked, quite frankly, that a number of the changes that we’re making weren’t already in place,” Keddy said inside HRP headquarters on Gottingen Street. But he stressed the proposed laws have been in the works for a while, adding “I think it’s a question of doing it right.”
Keddy said current law requires a Crown attorney to submit an application in order to add a convicted sex offender to the registry, meaning “the presiding judge has the discretion to decline to make such an order.
“The amendments the government is proposing today will eliminate this loophole,” he said.
The legislation change would also allow police forces across the country to use the registry so they can stop sex crimes before they happen, as opposed to accessing it only after crimes have occurred.
“If police see a suspicious activity near a school ground, for example, they will be able to request access to the database to find out if the person involved is a registered sex offender,” Keddy said.
HRP Chief Frank Beazley said yesterday the federal government’s initiative would help police, reassure citizens and enhance public safety.
Keddy said citizens wouldn’t be able to access the registry. Beazley said police worry the public could retaliate on convicted criminals.
“Though we want to warn the public, we also have to ensure their safety in the community.”