Police blunder allowed paedophiles to roam free

Some paedophiles were taken off the child protection register too early while others failed to be registered at all in a dangerous series of police blunders putting children at risk.

The systemic failures are revealed in a damning report about to be handed down by the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission in coming weeks after it received several complaints about gross mismanagement of the NSW Child Protection Register.

Among the allegations is that sloppy record keeping and technical glitches dating back to 2002 meant paedophiles were taken off the register too early.

NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller. Picture: Sam Ruttyn
NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller. Picture: Sam Ruttyn

In one case in 2015, a man was wrongly removed from the CPR only to masturbate in front of a young girl in public a few weeks later.

Other paedophiles inadvertently had their time on the register discounted - sometimes by up to seven years - because their terms were not calculated properly.

It was only when a manual audit was carried out in 2014 that police realised dozens of convicted sex offenders should have been left on the register.

In other examples, police weren't notified when a CPR offender was freed on bail because information wasn't updated between police and corrective services.

It meant offenders who had committed serious offences against children weren't subject to police scrutiny.

Part of being on the CPR means criminals need to update police on their every movement, from where they are working, any change of address, their partner's name and even their internet connection.

They can be subject to spontaneous police visits and computer searches that are meant to act as a deterrent.

A draft of the LECC report, the result of a two-year investigation codenamed Operation Tusket, has already landed on the desk of NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller.

"Since September, 2017, we have been working collaboratively with the LECC to further identify and rectify the issues,' he said.

"We note the contents of the draft report and its subsequent recommendations and will consider these in due course.

"Our priority has been and continues to be the safety and wellbeing of children and the community and protecting them from risk and serious harm.

In one case an offender was wrongly removed from the CPR only to reoffend weeks later. Picture: Generic image
In one case an offender was wrongly removed from the CPR only to reoffend weeks later. Picture: Generic image

"The management of convicted child sex offenders plays an important role in meeting this priority, reflected in the number of additional positions created for dedicated CPR duties."

It is understood CPR staff tried to raise the alarm with senior police from 2014 before the LECC, responsible for investigating police misconduct, got wind of the issue.

"It was a farce," one police source said.

The report will make a number of recommendations but it is understood no adverse findings will be made against individual officers.

Rather, the current CPR Inspector has been praised for working with the LECC to rectify the problems.

On the other end of the spectrum, LECC has also been told some people were left on the register longer than they should have been.

The oversight could leave police open to civil litigation from people charged for breaching a register they technically shouldn't have been on.

Certain offences warrant different terms on the register, ranging for four years to life.

Last year, the NSW Government announced plans to put a child protection register officer in every police area command over the next four years.

It came amid claims from the NSW Police Association that of the 4000 offenders on the CPR, only a fraction were monitored and 200 had gone missing from the system completely.