Sex offender bailed to live at address near Bunbury primary schools

Kate FieldingSouth Western Times
Stock image.
Camera IconStock image.

A registered child sex offender who was arrested on the grounds of Bunbury Primary School last week has been released on bail — with conditions he must reside at a location that is within 400m of two other schools in the city.

The 55-year-old man, who cannot be named for legal reasons and who police say has no fixed address, was arrested during school hours.

The man appeared in Bunbury Magistrates Court via video link from Bunbury Regional Prison on Monday when he argued that he thought the school was a park.

The man had been staying at the Admiral Motel Bunbury, which backs on to the school’s oval.

The man was charged with being a child sex offender near a school and will defend the allegation next month.

While no details about his previous offending were revealed in court, the man said he had been out of jail for four years and had to obey “a lot of rules” as he pleaded for bail.

The man said he had somewhere to stay on Forrest Avenue in Bunbury where there was no “socialising, children or schools”.

South Bunbury Primary School.
Camera IconSouth Bunbury Primary School. Credit: Callum Hunter / South Western Times

But further investigation by the South Western Times found there were two primary schools — South Bunbury and St Mary’s Catholic primary schools — within a 400m radius of the address.

Despite police prosecutors asking for bail to be refused, Magistrate Evan Shackleton granted the man’s release on a $2000 personal undertaking and conditions he reside at the address requested and not approach within a 5m radius of any child.

“You will need to be careful when going to places like supermarkets ... 5m is not very far,” Magistrate Shackleton warned the man.

The decision has angered Lovegrove Avenue resident and mother Jo Eaton, who has a 10-year-old son at the school who “constantly” plays on the Bunbury Primary School oval.

Mrs Eaton said she was “very nervous” and had lost sleep after discovering the man was living so close to the school.

“It’s a bit of a wake-up call actually because you’re trying to give kids a bit of independence and you really have to rein it back in,” Mrs Eaton said.

“I know it would cause a lot of angst within the school community and not just the school community, but people who live in the area.

“I will be wanting other parents, other people, grandparents, everybody in the area to be aware this is happening ... we shouldn’t be worrying about changing our behaviours for our children, but we have to and it’s not right.”

She said it was a “huge” concern the man had been released to bail close to more schools.

“These are primary schools, they’re not high schools that he’s near where the kids have got a fighting chance,” she said.

The Times contacted Police Commissioner Chris Dawson’s office for a comment, but a police spokeswoman said the “legalities” of such an incident prevented a response before yesterday’s deadline.

Police Minister Michelle Roberts said police were “aware” of the man’s location and his reporting and bail conditions.

“I’ve asked police for an assurance that he’s being appropriately managed in the community,” Ms Roberts said.

A Department of Education spokeswoman said the department could not comment on matters relating to the residence of sex offenders and that it was a police matter.

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