SUMMERSIDE — The public should be extremely cautious if posting information on social media sites about alleged criminals and their crimes, say police.
The warning comes after recent postings on Facebook regarding an alleged sex offender living near an East Prince school. The original source of the posting is not known but several people have reposted the warning and commented.
“We’re actually saying nothing at all,” said Summerside police deputy chief Sinclair Walker. “If there was a person of high risk in our community then we have a protocol in place. We have a high-risk offender committee on the Island to deal with that sort of thing and the public would be notified.”
Asked what classifies an individual as a high-risk offender, Walker said, “Usually they are classified when they leave the prisons but I can’t get into this at all.”
He did confirm his department has received a number of calls as a result of the postings on social media sites.
The high-risk offender committee consists of representatives from the Crown’s office, all Island police agencies and the province’s director of policing services.
Walker sits on the committee. The committee makes a recommendation but it is the police chief in that jurisdiction who decides if a public notice is issued.
“I can say I did see the information on Facebook. I know, myself, personally, I would not be putting that kind of stuff on there,” added Walker. “If it’s not true, it’s libelous because they’re printing it.”
Neither Walker nor East Prince RCMP Sgt. Kent MacKay could divulge if the individual in question is registered on the National Sex Offender Registry.
That’s because it is against the law to divulge who is on the registry.
The registry database is housed and maintained by the National Police Services Network under the stewardship of the RCMP. Accredited police agencies in every province and territory are able to access the database either directly or indirectly through their provincial or territorial sex offender registration centre.
Police in the various jurisdictions are responsible for inputting the data and enforcing of the registration provisions.
“The public doesn’t have access to the sex offender registry,” said MacKay. “It’s for police information. That is part of the act. Initially, there is a public record from the court. Subsequent to that, no one is allowed to release information about anyone or identify anyone that could be on the sex offender registry.”
Police do know if a registered sex offender is living within their jurisdiction.
“Part of the obligation under the act is that if someone is under the registry, anytime they move, they must report their change of address to the nearest sex offender registration centre,” added MacKay.