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Community notification laws for sex offenders are now widespread in the USA and there is considerable interest in introducing them in Australia. Along with these public moves to name and shame, there has been a parallel increase in private forms of naming and shaming through ‘outing’ of sex offenders. This article examines both public and private notification to conclude from the few studies available that they fail to achieve their goals and lead to significant unintended consequences. The article analyses The Australian Paedophile and Sex Offender Index (Coddington, 1997), a prime exemplar of the private domain of notification, to explore a range of variables (offender demographics, offence details, sentences, previous convictions and victimology) and concludes that it is unrepresentative and has criminogenic potential. The article summarises direct consequences of notification actions that include possibilities for vigilantism, effects on treatment and rehabilitation, and displacement. Finally, it examines the theoretical frameworks in which notification laws have been couched – restorative justice and criminological notions of shame and degradation – to conclude that notification laws are not supported by these theoretical paradigms.
This document has been peer reviewed.