EDITORIAL: Sex offender background check system a delicate matter | #childpredator | #kidsaftey | #childsaftey

Policy debate is picking up over a proposal to introduce a sex offender background check system to prevent culprits from taking jobs in fields such as education and nursing care that involve direct contact with children.

Safeguarding privacy will be a key element even as utmost priority is given to ensuring the system proves to be an effective tool to keep children safe. Appropriate care will be essential in drafting the legislation.

A panel of experts tasked with coming up proposals has compiled a draft report for the newly established Children and Families Agency to consider.

Sex violence against children at its basic level boils down to the strong taking advantage of the vulnerable and the weak, the panel argues. Such crimes often elude the attention of people around the victims. For these reasons, the panel called for a system that will protect children from sexual predators.

Adults in educational and child care institutions are in positions of authority that require them to keep a close eye on youngsters, often over the course of many years. These relationships are not always obviously visible to other people.

Given the serious consequences of sexual abuse, there is a compelling case for a special system to prevent such crimes against children.

According to the panel’s proposal, the new system would require schools and day care centers licensed under the law to perform sex offender background checks when they hire teachers, childcare workers and other staff members who would come into direct contact with children during the course of their duties.

With regard to private-sector cram schools and other institutions not under direct government oversight, the government would issue certifications to the businesses that use the system in the hiring process and publish the names of those it has certified.

But the scope of businesses eligible for the program should not be expanded willy-nilly, given that dealing with criminal records, important personal information, will be part of the picture.

To encourage private-sector businesses to join the program, it will be vital to disclose and disseminate information about specific businesses concerning their certification as entities performing background checks. This will give parents important information for making their choices.

These businesses would be required to take “appropriate measures,” like trying not to hire people convicted of sex offenses or transferring them to positions that do not involve direct contact with children. Easy-to-use guidelines and a system to evaluate related operations would also be needed.

Some issues remain to be sorted out. Sex offenses to be covered by the program are defined as past sex crimes “whose facts were found by the court.” But the question of how to handle violations of differing local government ordinances concerning sexual abuse against minors has been left to a future decision.

The panel’s report offers no clear answer to the question of how far back criminal records should be checked for the system. The report says there should be a “certain limit” but does not say how long.

The Penal Code stipulates that a convict’s sentence expires 10 years after the person completes his or her sentence so those who have atoned for their crime can make a fresh start. To go back further than that, it would be necessary to show good reason.

The government is planning to submit the bill to the Diet during the autumn extraordinary session. How the debate will progress over these issues remains unclear. One realistic approach would be to create a system that identifies possible areas as a first step and then revise it on the basis of continuous reviews after actual implementation.

In addition to background checks, it will also be crucial to step up efforts to build a better social environment to thwart sex crimes against children and make it easier for victims to seek help and report prurient behavior. A multilayered approach is required for this serious problem, including effective therapies and treatments for repeat sex offenders.

–The Asahi Shimbun, Sept. 7

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