Sex offenders who prey on children strike fear into the hearts of parents. But that does not appear to have prompted a sense of urgency about widening protection afforded youngsters. In 2011 the government adopted an administrative scheme enabling enterprises in fields involving children or mentally vulnerable people to check with the police whether prospective employees appear on a confidential register of sexual offenders, subject to the employee’s consent. It was seen as a breakthrough that went some way to bringing Hong Kong into line with other societies. But it was also seen only as an interim measure until the scheme was expanded to cover areas such as non-government agencies recruiting volunteers to work with vulnerable people, and parents hiring private tutors for children. Eleven years later the expansion remains a vision. It is good that the Law Reform Commission has now recommended expanding the background checks along those lines. The existing scheme followed concerns raised in the courts and the wider community about cases involving sex offences against children by people appointed to positions of trust who had previous convictions for similar crimes. The government and the then chief justice asked the LRC to consider the need for a sex offenders’ register to help screen applicants for jobs. ‘Expand background checks to protect Hong Kong children from sexual offenders’ Reform helps the law move with the times. Sadly LRC reports have a habit of gathering dust. In this case, the government should lose no time in adopting the suggested update. But that still means striking a balance between protection of the vulnerable and the right to privacy of minor non-repeat offenders, which is key to rehabilitation. Indeed, emphasising the role of rehabilitation in our justice system, the commission said convictions of people on a minor sexual offence were treated as “spent” after three years and should not be included in the scheme at this point. Peter Duncan, SC, chairman of the LRC’s sexual offences review subcommittee, says, rightly, the government should consider strengthening specialised rehabilitation services, such as psychiatric and psychological treatment for discharged sexual offenders. In the long run, the commission said, the government should seriously consider mandating the scheme with legislation.