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Authorities tracking sex offenders in revised rules

Mo Yan-chih / Taipei Times | August 6 2005

Amendments to the Sexual Abuse Prevention Act, which passed the Legislative Yuan in January, took effect yesterday. Requirements include the use of an electronic tracking system for paroled sex offenders and notifying communities of the presence of registered sex offenders.

But the Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) system, which has been adopted by the Ministry of Justice as the standard tool for tracking offenders, has not been completed in time. Videophones will therefore be set up in paroled sex offenders' residences as a temporary monitoring mechanism, the ministry said.

The Criminal Investigation Bureau said that the reason for the amendment was to improve protection of victims of sexual abuse, and to establish a strong community network to monitor sex offenders.

Under the amendment, paroled sex offenders will be restricted from certain areas or be placed under a curfew, and will be asked to wear an electronic tracking device. Receivers installed in places where parolees are not permitted to enter will cause the device to beep if offenders approach within 15m of the location.

To better protect victims, the identities of people who report sexual abuse will remain confidential. Media organizations that release a victim's name or other personal data can be punished with fines of NT$60,000 to NT$600,000 (US$1,900 to US$19,000).

Offenders are required to report their whereabouts and background to police.

The information will only be available to selected police officers. In addition, offenders with mental illnesses will receive enforced treatment that will continue until the "rate of recidivism" declines.

It was not immediately clear how this would be determined.

The Violence Prevention Legislative Change Alliance, which is made up of 11 different civic groups devoted to women's and children's issues, pressed for the amendments, as well as two other laws: the Domestic Violence Prevention Act (®a®x¼É¤O¨¾ªvªk) and the Sexual Harassment Prevention Act (©ÊÄÌÂZ¨¾ªvªk).

The alliance said that the amendment had made the law more practical and would benefit the public.

Gau Fehng-shian (°ª»ñ¥P), an alliance member and a Taiwan High Court judge, said that the amendment incorporated the spirit of Megan's Law in the US.

"We [the alliance] think that Megan's Law, which requires sex-offender registration and community notification, not only ensures the safety of victims and community members, but also prevents paroled criminals from becoming recidivists," she said.

Megan's Law, which was signed by former US president Bill Clinton into law in 1996, requires states to register individuals convicted of sex crimes, allows states discretion to establish criteria for disclosure, but also compels them to make private and personal information on registered sex offenders publicly available.

In response to criticism that the tracking devices and registration violated the human rights of offenders, Garden of Hope Foundation executive director Chi Hui-jung (¬ö´f®e) said the devices would not "beep" when offenders are in places that they are allowed to go.

"The system should not be viewed as a device that violates human rights. Instead, I think it is a useful system to protect the offenders' human rights by preventing them from having to go to jail again," she added.

The ministry said that the RFID tracking device would resemble a wristwatch, so that offenders could maintain a low profile despite the fact that they were being monitored.

If the offenders remove the device and fail to report to the police, the ministry will notify local police stations or case workers to investigate.

Offenders will be jailed if they fail to cooperate, the ministry said.
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