Tuesday, September 13, 2011

CNN Legal Contributor: Catholic Clergy Sex Abuses Could Qualify as War Crimes?

Original Article

A war crime? Really?


By Matt Hadro

CNN's legal contributor, and former legal analyst, Sunny Hostin stated Tuesday that the sex abuse cases involving the Catholic clergy could be considered war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

"I mean this is a war crimes tribunal and that is not to say that perhaps these crimes don't qualify as war crimes because we know that sex crimes and sexual violence do qualify," she maintained. However, she added that most cases seen by the ICC stem from genocide or violence in war-torn countries.

Hostin's statement came during CNN's coverage of the efforts of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) to have the pope prosecuted by the ICC for "crimes against humanity."

Both experts hosted by the network acknowledged that the case will probably not even reach the court.

However, Sunny Hostin gave credence to the lawsuit. "I don't think it's a frivolous lawsuit by any stretch of the imagination or a frivolous complaint," Hostin claimed. "I think that it's probably a good move by SNAP."

CNN anchor Randi Kaye asked guest John Allen of the heterodox National Catholic Reporter if the suit "could be a good thing," noting it could bring the whole issue "more to the forefront again."

Allen affirmed that it would be a "long shot" for the case to reach the ICC. He did opine that "it's unquestionably a good thing for the victims and their advocates" that the issue is receiving attention.

A transcript of the segment, which aired on September 13 at 1:24 p.m. EDT, is as follows:

RANDI KAYE: Some victims of priest abuse want the pope prosecuted for crimes against humanity. The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, also called SNAP, claims the pope and other church leaders, quote, "tolerate and enable the systemic and widespread concealing of rape and child sex crimes throughout the world." To support its claim, SNAP has filed more than 20,000 documents with the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands. A Vatican spokesmen tells CNN he's aware of the filing but he has no comment. Last June the pope had this to day about the ongoing abuses.

(Video Clip)

POPE BENEDICT XVI (through translator): We do insistently beg forgiveness from God and from the persons involved, while promising to do everything possible to ensure that such abuse will never occur again. And that --

(End Video Clip)

KAYE: Now, the pope says that he's doing everything he can to protect children and prevent these abuses, but SNAP still claims that he and other officials are turning a blind eye to the issues at hand. So, is this just a big PR stunt or does the group really have a legitimate case? Here to weigh in, legal contributor from "In Session" on TruTV, Sunny Hostin. Sunny, nice to see you. This is a pretty serious case to talk about with you today. Does SNAP have a real case here?

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN legal contributor: You know, I think it certainly has a real case. But the question is whether or not it really will even get there. Whether or not the International Criminal Court will even open up an investigation.

I mean this is a war crimes tribunal and that is not to say that perhaps these crimes don't qualify as war crimes because we know that sex crimes and sexual violence do qualify. But the type of crimes that historically are brought before this court are things like the violence in Libya, Randi, that we've seen recently, child soldiers in Darfur, genocide. Things like that. And so this certainly is a bit different.

It's also a court of last jurisdiction, last resort. And so I think in that sense, because a lot of these crimes are being prosecuted in the United States priest by priest, church by church, that sort of lends against having it tried in front of this type of court, an International Criminal Court located in the Netherlands.

So I don't think it's a frivolous lawsuit by any stretch of the imagination or a frivolous complaint, but certainly will it withstand scrutiny by the ICC, I think is going to be pretty difficult.

KAYE: When you hear the pope being accused of crimes against humanity, I mean, can you prosecute the pope? Can you prosecute the Vatican?

HOSTIN: Well, that's the thing. I mean, you know, the Holy See is certainly not a member state of the court. However, they are – you know, there are churches around the world and in those jurisdictions they are sort of members of this court. So it is a stretch.

But the reason they're suing or filing this complaint against the pope is because he was the leader of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and he had responsibility – overall responsibility – for overseeing and prosecuting these abuse cases. And so in that sense, he would be someone that would be subject to suit in front of the ICC. But again, I think it's such a political hot potato, Randi. I think it's unlikely that this will succeed in front of this court.

But it succeeded in the sense that it's brought this issue, once again, in front of the international community. And it's such an important issue. People and children were harmed and continue to be harmed. And so, for that reason alone, I think that it's probably a good move by SNAP.

KAYE: Sunny, hang with us. I want to bring in CNN's Vatican analyst, John Allen, who's also out with a new book, "The Future Church." John, I want to get your take on this case. If it is picked up by the ICC, the International Criminal Court, what could this mean for the pope and what could it mean for the Vatican?

JOHN ALLEN, senior correspondent, National Catholic Reporter: Hey, Randi. Well, I would agree with what Sunny just told you, it's certainly what I've been hearing from international law experts around the world today, which is, it's a long shot that the ICC would touch this. But if that were to happen, it really would be a novelty because while the Vatican has been sued before for its role in the sexual abuse crisis, most prominently in American courts, there's currently a case in federal district court in Oregon that's going on. In each of those cases, it's been able to invoke its sovereign immunity under international law.

Of course the Holy See is a sovereign state. The pope is a head of state. They have diplomatic relations with 179 countries. And so they've been able to use that, if you like, as a shield. And so none of these cases have ever gone beyond the jurisdictional stage of whether courts can even hear them. If the ICC were to open a case for the first time, the Vatican could, at least in theory, be compelled to defend its records, not on jurisdictional grounds, but on the merits. And that would certainly be a new development.

KAYE: John, is there any way that this could be a good thing? I mean, like Sunny mentioned, it might bring it more to the forefront again.

TN - Knox bans registered sex offenders from county libraries

Original Article
Related Article
Update: ACLU to Burchett: Rescind your sex offender policy


By Mike Donila

People listed on the Tennessee Sex Offender Registry are banned from visiting county libraries under an executive order issued Monday by Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett.

He said they can still use the county library system's online services and have a proxy check out and return materials on their behalf. But, they face arrest if caught inside the buildings.

"I just don't want them anywhere around our kids," Burchett said. "The ultimate decision is how we pursue it. I want to get out in front of this. There's no need to toil around with it. I don't want them anywhere around our kids."
- This is just the usual grandstanding to "look tough" on ex-sex offenders, while doing nothing. The only way to prevent ex-sex offenders from being around kids, is to sentence them to life in prison or house arrest, and even with house arrest, if a person is intent on committing a crime, they will.

The administration said the library system, which has 19 locations, is the first of the state's big four metropolitan library systems to put such a policy in place. The county, Burchett said, is taking advantage of a state law that went into effect July 1 that gives public library directors the authority "to reasonably restrict the access of any person listed on the sexual offender registry."

Officials will compare a list of registered offenders to its 150,000 active cardholders and then mail them notices, advising them of the change. State law says that a sex offender who enters a library five days after the notice is mailed can be prosecuted for criminal trespass.

In addition, the county also will post notices on the entrances to all its public library buildings.

Listed offenders on the state's registry include those convicted of sex crimes against children, rape, statutory rape, attempted rape, sexual battery, criminal attempt to commit statutory rape and solicitation to commit aggravated prostitution.

"People will say they've paid their debts to society, but they've given some of those kids a life sentence," Burchett said. "(Some of the) kids have been abused and they carry it with them for the rest of their lives. And I don't want to give (the offenders) a chance to be anywhere near them again."
- Once again, a Mayor making it appear as if all sex offenders are child molesting, pedophile, predators just waiting for a moment to pounce on your kids! That is a lie of course, but hey, anything to make himself look "tough" right?

Knox County Sheriff Jimmy "J.J." Jones agreed, saying he was pleased with the new policy.
- Of course he is, police think all people are criminals, and like everyone else, they don't want to speak out on anything pertaining to ex-sex offenders, it could cost them their jobs. But wait until one of their own family members is slammed with the scarlet letter, then you will see them change their minds, but, it will be too late then.

This is a dirt bag!
"I applaud the state of Tennessee for putting tougher regulations on these dirt bags who prey on our children," he said.
- You see, even he thinks all ex-sex offenders are child molesting, pedophile, predators! If you ask me, it's people like this sheriff and mayor who are the "dirt bags!"

Officials say they can't recall an incident at the library that involved a sex offender, but communications manager Michael Grider said the Knoxville Police Department is investigating a complaint made roughly a month to six weeks ago.

Grider said a girl in her early teens was at the Bearden branch when a man told her he was having car troubles and asked her for help. The girl later that day told her parents and then they talked with the library staff. The police were called to investigate.

Grider said at this point no one knows who the man was or whether he was a sex offender, but that the incident was troubling enough to look into.

"We have always been concerned about the safety of our patrons," said county Library Director Myretta Black. "Our staff is well trained to ensure a comfortable and secure environment, particularly when it comes to our children. This new state law is a tool to heighten security where registered sex offenders are concerned,"

Sixth Judicial District Public Defender Mark Stephens said Monday he doesn't question the county's purpose of ensuring public safety, but he questioned whether the move was constitutional.

"A regulation like this proposes too broad a ban to include people who impose no threat to library goers," he said. "A ban like this would have to be so narrowly tailored to avoid infringing on the rights of those people who don't present a risk, and the Knox County proposed ban doesn't meet that test."

Stephens said a New Mexico district court recently ruled that a similar ban in Albuquerque was unconstitutional.

Click to enlarge
Additionally, he said courts have held that public libraries are limited public forums, which means the First Amendment protects peoples' rights to use them.

When asked whether the county's plan unfairly punished those whose crimes were not child-related, Burchett said: "Sometimes people plead down to lesser offenses. My main concern is protecting innocent people, and all we're doing is enforcing state law and going after it very aggressively. I don't know how you'd differentiate. The state can work that out."
- You'd start by tailoring the law to only those who have committed a sex crime against a child, but hey, that's only common sense, which politicians do not have, and even then, it still would not protect kids from someone intent on committing a crime! If you were truly "concerned" about protecting innocent people, then you'd have to ban ex-offenders from going anywhere, like grocery stores, malls, gas stations, etc. Those have innocent people as well, but, this is not about "protecting" innocent people, it's about grandstanding to help yourself, IMO.

Officials with the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee did not return calls seeking comment Monday.

GA - Whitaker v. Perdue update

Yahoo Group


Dear plaintiff class members,

We are writing with a brief update about Whitaker v. Perdue. You may recall that summary judgment briefing on the legality of the school bus stop restriction was filed in late 2010. The parties have been awaiting the Court's ruling since that time.

Today we received an order from the Court. The Court has denied without prejudice both the State's and our motions for summary judgment pending additional briefing by the parties. Specifically, the Court has asked the State to re-brief the question of whether this case should be dismissed as moot since, in late 2010, the school boards in Chatham and Bullock counties "undesignated" their school bus stops for purposes of the sex offender law, leaving no "designated" school bus stops in Georgia. The State has been ordered to file a supplemental brief regarding this issue within 30 days, and then SCHR will have an opportunity to respond on behalf of the plaintiff class.

To summarize, the Court's order today means that there will be an additional period of briefing before a final ruling is made on the legality of the school bus stop provision. Please find attached the Court's Order of 9/13/11 and a brief filed by plaintiffs last year pertaining to the mootness issue on which the Court has ordered supplemental briefing.

We will keep you posted when we have any additional news to report.


The Southern Center for Human Rights

  1. Order 9-13-11.pdf (Download, View)
  2. PResponseNoticeFilingBisStops 12-14-10.pdf (Download, View)

NY - Cops Caught Performing Raunchy Dance During City Parade

AUSTRALIA - Sex offender registration system needs to change

Original Article


Confusing paedophiles with under-age sex offenders is wrong, David Biles argues.

Two recent news items in different newspapers on the same day revealed contrasting points of view between judges and politicians with regard to the operation of the national register of offenders who are convicted for sex offences against children.

It was reported in The Age on August 20 that a Victorian County Court judge had been very critical of the fact it was unavoidable that an offender who had pleaded guilty to offences against children had to be placed on the sex offender register for life when there was no chance that he would re-offend.

Judge Lisa Hannan sentenced the offender to a 12-month community-based order, and suggested that the registration requirement was a ''travesty'', and that there should be judicial discretion in cases like this.

These are strong words to come from the Bench as most judges are reluctant to make public statements which could be seen as critical of the government which appointed them and which creates the legislation they are required to follow. Off the record, however, many judges will make similar comments. On exactly the same day, this newspaper carried a headline ''Govt eyes tightening laws for sex crimes'' in which it was reported that the ACT Government, on the advice of the Ombudsman, proposed making the requirements of the sex offender register more stringent with sentences of up to five years for not complying with reporting obligations. There was no mention of any consideration being given to judicial discretion.

This news item was informative as it explained that the Child Sex Offender Register which had been in force in the ACT since 2005 and was surrounded by a strict secrecy regime. The register holds information on the identities and whereabouts of ACT residents who have been convicted of sexual offences against children and those guilty of child pornography offences.

The secrecy surrounding the sex offender register means that the public cannot know how many cases are on the register at any time nor what offences were committed. Furthermore, official reports on this subject are usually marked on every page ''Law enforcement in confidence''. That is fairly intimidating and I am not even sure if I am allowed to say whether or not I played a role in the preparation of one of those reports.

Regardless of that, I can certainly say that for over half a century I have taken an interest in this subject and have spoken to scores of sex offenders in prisons, and have also attended many conferences, seminars and expert meetings on sex offending and the treatment of sex offenders. In 2006 I even wrote a lengthy report for the ACT Government Sentence and Release Options for High Risk Sexual Offenders (Older 2005 Version).

It is from this breadth of experience and discussion that I have come to the conclusion that the sex offender register is not working as it should. I have no doubt that when the relevant legislation was passed it was done with the best of intentions. The aim was clearly to deter the worst offenders who target children, but the result is the labeling of thousands of people who are reported to, or detected by, the police for engaging in sexual behaviour with children under the legal age of consent.

This used to be known as carnal knowledge and, as Judge Hannan made clear, it is against the law and should be punished appropriately, but it is not appropriate for these offenders to be classified as paedophiles and placed on a register so that they can be monitored for the rest of their lives.

The misuse of the sex offender register stems from the fact that not many people seem to understand the very significant differences between paedophilia and the precocious sexual behaviour of teenagers. Paedophiles are generally mature adults who are obsessed with particular groups of very young children, pre-pubescent girls or young teenage boys for example.

Their thinking is generally strategic, and they may spend many months ''grooming'' their targets. They have even been known to pursue single mothers in orders to gain access to their children. Paedophiles also nearly always treasure photographs and video clips of children in the age and gender groups that they prefer.

Hence they have active ''paedophile rings'' which exchange images of children, whether those children have been targets or not. In fact a significant minority of paedophiles are passive in they only want to view child pornography without seeking any contact with the children themselves. (Passive paedophiles are still serious offenders, however, as they create the market for much of the abuse of children.)

Finally, paedophiles are quite different from other sex offenders in that they tend to cluster in particular occupational groups or work situations. They are also more likely than others to move interstate or overseas if they perceive any danger of arrest. For these reasons they are less likely to be listed on the sex offender register than are less serious offenders.

In my opinion the operation of the sex offender registration system is in need of thorough review at a national level so that it can focus on the offenders who are most dangerous and not those whose behaviour is closer to the norms of this society. And while they are at it, the review might address the issue of the duplication of services which result in offenders like the young man sentenced by Judge Hannan being supervised by police and community corrections officers at the same time.

In the interests of increased productivity, which applies to the public sector as much as it does to the private sector, two agencies doing virtually the same job is a clear waste of money and manpower.

David Biles is a Canberra-based consultant criminologist.

ND - Awarded grant to improve sex offender programs

Original Article


FARGO (AP) — The Department of Justice has awarded North Dakota a $500,000 grant to improve programs designed to capture and prosecute sex offenders who target children in the state.

The North Dakota Attorney General's Office will use the money to fund a team of officers to investigate sex offenders who are in violation of state and federal sex offender registration laws.

U.S. Attorney Timothy Purdon said in a statement that he is pleased the initiative will include tribal communities in North Dakota.

The Child Sexual Predator Program awarded $9.3 million in grant money to law enforcement agencies in 13 states this year to improve policing crimes against children.

IRELAND - Version of Sarah’s Law to be introduced

Original Article

It seems the whole world has caught the sex offender hysteria bug!


Minister for justice Alan Shatter is to introduce legislation so parents of young children can be made aware of sex offenders living in their areas.
- But what about all the other criminals? Like abusive parents, babysitters, cyber-bullies, murderers, gang members, DUI offenders, etc?

The Department of Justice confirmed the Minister’s intentions to allow Gardaí to release certain information about sex offenders who have completed their sentences.

In a statement, the Department said that authorities will be able to warn individuals of a particular danger and respond to specific requests.

The proposed legislation changes are subject to Government approval but the Irish Daily Mail reveals that the plans have already been given a cautious welcome by Fianna Fáil and the Rape Crisis Centre.

Megan’s Law

Megan’s Law was introduced in the US in 2004 after seven-year-old Megan Kanka was raped and murdered by a convicted sex offender in New Jersey. She had been living on the same street as her murderer Jesse Timmendequas.

The legislation requires police to make information about registered sex offenders public. Details released usually include the convict’s photograph, address and the nature of the crime. The information is often passed around neighbourhoods through pamphlets or newspapers.

Similar legislation was called for in the UK following the murder of Sarah Payne in July 2000. Sarah’s Law was implemented on a trial basis in four different areas of Wales and England in 2008 and was brought in fully in the spring of this year.

The law allows for certain information about sex offenders to be made public but exact addresses or photographs are not given out.

The Department of Justice told TheJournal.ie that the idea of introducing a version of Megan’s Law was raised in a 2009 discussion document on the management of sex offenders.

However, Shatter’s proposed legislation will not go as far as Megan’s Law, which has been criticized for leading to vigilante violence against the convicted sex offenders.

In fact, it will be more in line with what has been introduced in the UK.

Following consultations and forms, the Department said publishing the addresses of sex offenders would be counter productive and could drive sex offenders underground. This would mean they are more difficult to monitor and more likely to re-offend.

There was, however, support for the view that those with a legitimate interest should receive appropriate information and, if there was a danger to the public, the Gardaí should be able to make the identity of a sex offender known,” the Department added.

At the moment, Gardaí can provide information to the public in “exceptional circumstances” but the Minister intends to put such disclosures on a “statutory footing”.