Public consultation likely by year's end A public consultation on setting up a register of sex offenders could be available by the end of the year now that members of a Law Reform Commission subcommittee have decided to focus on this issue in response to growing public concern. The commission's subcommittee reviewing sexual offences was formed in June 2006 for the purpose of reviewing the criminal law, which had been criticised as being gender-specific, based on sexual orientation, too limited in scope or applying maximum sentences that are too lenient. Later that year the subcommittee included the possibility of a sex offenders' register under its review. Now, it was planning to first publish a consultation on the register, while discussion on other issues related to such offences would follow later, commission secretary Stuart Stoker said. 'The priority is at the moment to look at the register of sex offenders. Once that's been looked at and the consultation is out, then the subcommittee will go on to look at the wider issues,' Mr Stoker said. The register consultation would be conducted separately from the general review of sexual offences, contrary to initial plans, to fast-track the process and reflect the urgency, he said. 'It stems from primarily, a number of cases in which the judges made comments, not just once but on a number of occasions ... that [a register] is something that ought to be looked at as a matter of urgency. It was in response to those comments, and of course general public concern, the subcommittee decided to apply their minds to this issue first.' The most recent public outcry followed a court case in February that revealed that a man with three previous convictions for indecent assault, one of which involved molesting a girl during tutorials, was able to open a tutorial school upon release from jail and molest at least five more girls in Tin Shui Wai. Against Child Abuse director Priscilla Lui Tsang Sun-kai, who had previously criticised government indecision over the matter, hailed the new fast-track arrangements as a breakthrough. While she still hoped for an earlier review, she said a consultation towards the end of this year was 'at least a good start'. She suggested a system similar to that used in Australia and New Zealand, where only specified organisations such as government departments can access the register and monitor those with records. Jurisdictions with severe problems with sex offenders, such as the United States, have open registers, but she does not think that is necessary for Hong Kong. Mr Stoker said he expected the consultation to last two to three months, but he was unable to estimate how much longer it would take to compile the final report since much depended on suggestions from the consultation. 'The question of a sex offenders' register really does raise all sorts of complex and sensitive issues,' said Mr Stoker, most of which revolve around privacy principles.