KITCHENER, Ont. - An Ontario provincial-court judge has found the law governing the province's sex offender registry is too broad and, therefore, unconstitutional.
Christopher's Law, as it is known, requires anyone convicted of a sex offence to register with his or her local police force every year, as long as they live in Ontario.
Police wanted the registry, saying lives could be saved if they had speedy access to the names and addresses of known sex offenders.
But Justice Gary Hearn, presiding over the law's first constitutional challenge in Kitchener, said it deprived offenders of their right to liberty and security, no matter how laudable its goal.
In a written decision released in Ontario Court, he said the law is offence-oriented, requiring everyone convicted of a sex offence to register, regardless of the crime committed.
Hearn said offenders have no way of disputing their inclusion on the registry, or arguing that they should be removed from it, meaning the law lacks fundamental procedures giving people the right to a hearing.
Stephen Gehl, the lawyer who launched the challenge, said, for example, a man convicted of patting a woman on the bum would be put in the same category as a dangerous pedophile. He argued people should be included on the registry only if they are high-risk or violent offenders.
The registry was created in April 2001, eight years after being recommended by a Brampton coroner's inquest into the sex assault and murder of 11-year-old Christopher Stephenson. Several other provinces have followed Ontario's lead by creating their own registry. In December 2002, Ottawa passed legislation to create a national registry.
It isn't yet clear what the implications of Hearn's ruling will be. Decisions by provincial court judges are not binding on other Ontario judges.
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