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Legislators look to make more sex offender info public

Posted by Jarret Bencks  January 23, 2013 10:04 AM

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Legislators representing Malden, Melrose, and Wakefield have filed legislation calling for information on a wider range of sex offenders to be made public, and to give the state's Sex Offender Registry Board access to information beyond what is presented in court to determine sex offender status.

State Senator Katherine Clark and state Representative Paul Brodeur, both Democrats from Melrose, filed the bills in response to the child sexual assault charges brought against Wakefield's John Burbine in December. Burbine was previously classified a level 1 sex offender.  

State law allows for information on level 3 sex offenders -- the highest level -- to be publicly posted, but law enforcement agencies are not allowed to provide information to the public on level 1 offenders, who are considered least likely to reoffend.

"There is no bulletproof system to guarantee safety," Brodeur said in a conference call Wednesday. "But this will give people a much higher degree of confidence."

The legislation would allow for local police to give out limited information on level 1 offenders, but only when members of the public asks for information on a specific person, Clark said.

"We think this will be a helpful for the public in allowing them to look up someone they might be considering hiring as a babysitter, or someone to care for elderly parents," she said.

It also calls for the sex offender registry board to be allowed to review evidence not presented in court in making its decision on sex offender status, Brodeur said.

"What we want to do here is create good information that, under certain circumstances, the public can get," he said.

The sex offender board currently can only change the status of a sex offender upon a conviction; the legislation would give them the power to make changes without one, Brodeur said.

The bills were crafted jointly, with guidance from Middlesex County District Attorney Gerry Leone and Wakefield Police Chief Richard Smith.

"Our goal is to enhance the system, make it work better, and hopefully protect children who can't protect themselves," Smith said Wednesday.

In December, Burbine was arrested on 100 charges, including 40 counts of aggravated sexual assault, for allegedly sexually abusing children he accessed through his wife's child care business. Burbine was previously classified a level 1 sex offender after being convicted on charges stemming from indecent assault and battery on a child in 1989.

Clark said she would aggressively push the legislation forward and seek a vote in the spring. Beyond Malden and Melrose, she also represents Reading, Stoneham, Wakefield and portions of Winchester.

Brodeur represents Melrose and portions of Malden and Wakefield.

Jarret Bencks can be reached at Follow him on twitter @JarretBencks.

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