Everyone wants to protect children from the clutches of paedophiles. But we must make sure we do not do so at the expense of established laws that safeguard our privacy, freedom and property rights. A dispute at the Laguna Verde estate in Hung Hom has reopened the debate. Indeed, it raises a new and thornier issue of the right of a convicted paedophile - who owns a flat at the private estate - to visit its clubhouse, where he molested a boy in the changing room. The man is serving a 20-month sentence for the crime but could be out as early as April on good behaviour. Before his sentencing last February, he was on bail and made full use of the club's facilities, despite protests from neighbours. Now, some flat owners are campaigning to get the man banned from accessing the clubhouse after he is released. Understandably, the estate's management sought legal advice and was told it had no power to impose such a ban. Members of private clubs may be kicked out if they violate bylaws that allow for the banning or cancellation of memberships. But estate clubhouses are facilities in which flat owners have shares. To impose such a ban legally would require making laws that are not currently on the agenda of most child advocates and legal experts. It would mean following some extremely controversial measures adopted in the United States and Britain that have caused many problems, difficulties that Hong Kong would be wise to avoid. So far, the toughest anti-paedophile measure has been proposed by the Law Reform Commission, to set up a sex offenders' register. But use of such a register is likely to be restricted to employers offering jobs that involve dealing with children. It would not be open to the public. The proposal has already caused a good deal of debate because it may potentially contravene the rights of convicted criminals not to disclose their records once their sentences have been served. The commission recently completed a public consultation on the register proposal. This came after several judges pointed to a legislative gap that allowed a spate of convicted child molesters to reoffend because victims' parents had no knowledge of the molesters' prior convictions when they were hired for tutoring or piano lessons. As experts have pointed out, paedophiles are more likely than other criminals to reoffend. The Laguna Verde case goes beyond employment and background checks on job applicants. It falls squarely on the issue of ownership rights. In some states in the US, post-release conditions may be imposed on sex offenders who have completed their jail terms and are ready to be released. These often ban them from approaching children or places where they can reasonably expect to encounter children. Presumably, something similar would be required in Hong Kong if a ban could be legally imposed at the Laguna Verde clubhouse, which is visited by children. Local judges have not raised such issues, nor has the commission. Our community is far from being ready to go so far. Nevertheless, legal experts and children's welfare activists should study the issues in this case, not necessarily to advocate US-style laws but to understand better their legal and practical implications. The Laguna Verde case has raised an important issue that has been neglected in the debate about sex offenders. But the pros and cons of post-release restrictions need to be carefully weighed, just as we need to balance the need to protect children and the rights of offenders in setting up a register.