Should a convicted sex offender be allowed to study at an Australian university?

Your first instinct may be to say, “no way!” as you imagine some ghastly man preying on innocent young female students. Having heard so many terrible stories of young people being sexually exploited by adults we are all now rightly concerned about any such possibility and determined to do all we can to keep children out of harm’s way.

But I’ve just made a YouTube video, talking to a so-called “sex offender”, to show you these stories are often more complex than we assume

In 2011 Nico Bester was sentenced to nearly 3 years in prison following the discovery of a sexual relationship with a 15 year old student when he was a science teacher at a Tasmanian private school. He served his sentence, was released in 2013 and is now doing a PhD in chemistry at the University of Tasmania.

But his life is being made hell by vigilante feminists who have made him the poster boy for the “safe spaces” campaign being run on the Tassie Uni campus. He’s been stopped from attending the uni library and the gym, demonstrators have been camping out in front of his house, there’s a petition to try to stop him attending the university at all, and he’s just lost a job playing the organ at a local church.

The man is not a paederast. This is not a man with a history of sexually preying on children. He’s a man who made mistakes, served his time in prison. A man I believe should be allowed to get on with his life.

I am concerned about the vigilantism that surrounds the issue of child sexual abuse. People can commit horrendous crimes, destroying other people’s lives in all manner of ways and not receive the same scrutiny as child sexual abusers. When they are released from prison they are rarely given the treatment we now reserve for sex offenders.

There are so many myths about the impact of child sexual abuse, for instance it is just not true that all such abuse has a lasting impact on people’s lives. A vast amount of international research clearly shows that the impact depends on the nature of the crime – a touch or caress is far less likely to cause lasting harm than a child who is raped. And paederasts are not all likely to repeat their crime – they actually have a low rate of recidivism overall although there is a small group of repeat offenders. You might like to read some of the research on this subject. Here’s a good article from Scientific American: Once a sex offender, always a sex offender?: Maybe not. And here is a very useful submission by expert forensic psychologists presented to a committee on child sexual abuse: Submission No 5 – Australian Psychological Society

But now have a look at my interview with Nico and judge for yourself as to whether he is receiving fair treatment.