In Chapter 2 of this book a brief history of registers is attempted that seeks to explore the theme that registers in themselves can be helpful and neutral, while at the same time can be experienced as intrusive and almost ‘dangerous’. In particular is the idea that the register is something imposed from above and rarely something that people wish to organise for themselves. The purpose of this history is not a history for its own sake but to try and help us understand the nature of today’s sex oﬀender registers and public attitudes towards them. Many of today’s experiences of registers are not new. Chapter 3 follows this history into the twentieth century and tries to focus in on registers that record details of oﬀenders, and other people considered ‘diﬀerent’ or deviant. It is this period that saw what some have called the ‘ﬁrst wave’ of sex oﬀender laws and registration in the USA. The United States of America is generally thought of as the birthplace of
sex oﬀender registers and the country that has given us the model for all sex oﬀender registers. Chapter 4 traces this development from the early 1990s in the ‘second wave’ of register developments. This ‘wave’ started in Washington State and a number of other individual states before receiving federal backing in 1994 with the Jacob Wetterling Crimes against Children and Sexually Violent Oﬀender Registration Act. The federal law required all ﬁfty states to have a register in place if they wanted to continue receiving federal ﬁnancial support for law enforcement matters. Massachusetts was the last state to organise the registration of its known sex oﬀenders in 1996. The Wetterling Act slowly evolved and became more restrictive before being completely replaced by the even stronger federal 2006 Adam Walsh Act. The USA has also committed itself to having its sex oﬀender register
open to the public. These open policies have been termed ‘community notiﬁcation’ policies or sometimes ‘Megan’s Law’; the rationale has been that a better informed public can better protect itself and its children against the sex oﬀender. Community notiﬁcation is considered separately in Chapter 8. Chapter 5 examines the origins and current policy and practice of sex
oﬀender registration in the UK from its beginnings in 1997 to its current manifestation under the Sexual Oﬀences Act 2003. In common with the USA this is a story of continual changes that seek to ‘strengthen’ the register and ‘close all loopholes’ to ensure better public protection. It is also the story of an ongoing demand for policies of ‘community notiﬁcation’ to be formulated comparable to those in the USA. At present the UK has resisted this demand and does not have a policy of community notiﬁcation, but it does have its own variations on just how register information should be disclosed in certain circumstances, and this is also considered in Chapter 8.