How does the National Sex Offender Registry work?

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock

There are some lists you really want to be on, like the dean’s list, or the guest list at a popular nightclub. The National Sex Offender Registry is not one of those lists.

The registry, part of the Sex Offender Information Registry Act, which came into existence in 2004, is a database of information on convicted sex offenders. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police maintain the database and police forces across the country are able to access the it to find out identifying information about men and women who have histories of committing sex crimes.

What information is available on the National Sex Offender Registry?

Detailed files for the identification of offenders are listed on the Registry. The information includes:

  • Offender’s name
  • Date of birth
  • Current photograph
  • Current address
  • Identifying marks, such as scars or tattoos
  • Vehicle information
  • Place and nature of employment
  • Sex offence convictions
  • Driver’s licence
  • Passport

This information is for police use only, and is not accessible to the public. There are those who believe the registry should be open to everyone, as it is in the United States. Public Safety Canada has looked at the possibility of a publicly accessible registry for high-risk child sex offenders but that has yet to come to fruition.

Offences that qualify a person for the National Sex Offender Registry

There are many offences on the Criminal Code that can land a person on the registry. Crimes designated under the Sex Offender Information Registration Act are:

  • Sexual exploitation
  • Incest
  • Sexual interference
  • Exposure
  • Invitation to sexual touching
  • Child pornography
  • Bestiality
  • Sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault with a weapon
  • Certain offences where it can be proven the offence was committed with intention to commit a sexual offence
  • Attempt or conspiracy to commit any of the offences listed above

Adding a name to the Registry

Since the Protecting Victims from Sex Offenders Act came into effect on April 15, 2011, addition to the registry after conviction of a listed sex offence is automatic. Previously, the Crown was required to request the judge add the guilty party to the list.

Convicted offenders also have a DNA sample taken and this becomes part of the National DNA Data Bank.

What is the purpose of the registry?

The registry is a source of valuable information that is readily accessible to law enforcement officers. The information may be very useful during the investigation of a crime.

Information in the registry has proactive uses, as well. For example, since a registered offender is required to report his or her intentions to travel from one jurisdiction to another, the police at the destination can be made aware the individual is coming. Additionally, police can cross-reference reports of suspicious activity with information available in the database in hopes of preventing a crime from happening.

While the RCMP warns us the National Sex Offender Registry does not provide the answers for solving every sexual crime, it is a valuable tool for law enforcement across Canada.
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