Sex-offender data goes public, police chief welcomes heightened awareness

Sex-offender data goes public, police chief welcomes heightened awareness

CORNWALL, Ontario – Ontarians have the right to know if a sex offender lives close to their home, and Cornwall police chief Dan Parkinson said he supports any move that increases awareness about the risks those criminals present.

The Supreme Court held up a lower court ruling Thursday that gave citizens the right to know how many sex offenders live within a specific geographic area in Ontario, based on the first three digits of a postal code.

Parkinson said that while such a move might lose its lustre in a small community like Cornwall – which only has a handful of postal code prefixes – he supports the decision in principle.

“I would support the heightened awareness that comes with the risks of a certain individual,” he said, adding there are probably in the neighbourhood of about 75 registered sex offenders living in Cornwall.

The Ontario government has suggested that releasing information in its registry would lead to the identification of sex offenders, who could become victims of vigilantism.

But the court ultimately disagreed.

Parkinson said people who “take the law into their own hands” should be warned they are not operating with the consent of police.

“That’s never the best way to go,” said Parkinson. “(But) it’s very real and…(sex offenders) aren’t even accepted by criminals, let alone society.”

The court said releasing this information doesn’t violate the province’s privacy laws.

The ruling doesn’t give citizens the right to know names, addresses, or other personal information of sex offenders.

“People just need to know we have sex offenders living in our city, and to be vigilant always,” said Parkinson.

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