Offender Defender – Sexual Offences & the Extended Supervision Order System

When Leanne Warren began her articles in 1986 she could not have dreamt that, two decades later, over half her clients would be sex offenders.

Ms Warren wanted to practise family law but changed plans six months into her articles after falling for the pace and variety of criminal law.

She now has a successful Melbourne-based practice, Leanne Warren & Associates, and cannot envisage a time when she would not want to represent sex offenders.

“The public obviously don’t like them and it is difficult for some solicitors to put aside the moral distaste and professionally and properly represent them, particularly the ones who offend against children,” she said. “It’s difficult to quantify but it makes me feel good that they can have someone represent them who is an expert in the area,” she said.

“There are times when it is particularly stressful and I have to cut off certain emotions, but there is never a time when I think I am over it.”

Ms Warren, who gets the bulk of her work from solicitor referrals or word of mouth at HM Ararat, said about 60 per cent of her clients were sex offenders.

Having dealt extensively with clients, she believes aspects of the extended supervision order system “cultivate really bad behaviour” and, while understanding why it was introduced, believes it “is very scary where it is going”.

“The ESO court applications will come thick and fast in the next months and years as people near release dates after serving long sentences and more people are being charged with sex offences,” she said.

Ms Warren is a member of the LIV Criminal Law Specialisation Committee, a body that handles the examination process for prospective applicants in the area of criminal law.