South Carolina sex offender registry doesn't include all who should be on it | VIDEO
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - The South Carolina Sex Offender Registry is a tool to help law enforcement officers track criminals.
It also gives victims and their families a sense of safety.
“I will go on the website every now and then and see the most recent photo that’s been taken,” said Carol Hogue, whose son was sexually abused when he was a child.
It’s something Hogue never imagined as a mother.
“It's really difficult as a parent,” she said. “This is one of the things you never want to think about or how you'll have to respond to it.”
Her son’s abuser was someone the family knew and trusted, and Hogue said the pain was unbearable.
“That just really impacted all of us, because his abuser was someone that we knew and loved and respected,” Hogue explained. “To have that happen and to deal with our child being harmed in that way and that violation of trust, that impacted our entire family.”
The family went through the court system, and her son’s abuser was convicted. Hogue said he was listed as a “Tier III” offender of the South Carolina Sex Offender Registry.
“A Tier III offender is required by law to report every three months to have their picture made, to check in with authorities,” Hogue said. “They're constantly tracked. If their weight has changed, it’s recorded. It gives you a good picture so to speak, literally, of what that person looks like. It also lets you know that he/she is checking in with authorities the way they are required to.”
Hogue said it works for her son’s abuser, but not every offender required to be in the database is actually there. At least, that’s according to data given to ABC News 4 by the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office.
We requested the number of defendants in Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties whose convictions from May 2016 to May 2017 would require them to be placed on the sex offender registry.
The AG’s office provided a list of 20 names fitting the criteria. Only 11 of the 20 names in the Tri-County area are currently in the database as registered sex offenders.
ABC News 4 contacted the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division for information about the website and an interview and never received a response. ABC News 4 also requested an interview with Attorney General Alan Wilson. The request was denied.
ABC News 4 then went to the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office and the department in charge of monitoring nearly 900 registered sex offenders in the county.
“I take it very seriously,” said Detective Robert Coulson with CCSO. “I have three other people in my office. We take a lot of pride in maintaining all information and data as best we can. Nothing is 100 percent, but we try to keep it the best and up-to-date for everyone to view.”
Coulson is in charge of the department.
He said there is a reason some names might not ever appear on the sex offender registry, and it all goes back to the defendant’s day in court.
“A person is only brought on to the registry if the courts let us know,” he said. “The judge has to physically write on the conviction sheet that the defendant is going to register as a sex offender.”
He said sometimes the judge fails, for whatever reason, to specify whether the defendant has to register as a sex offender.
It’s led him to uncover cases where people have been wrongfully placed on the registry, according to Coulson.
Still, for offenders like Hogue’s son’s, she can’t imagine the frustration a family might feel when they go to the registry website, type in the name of the child’s abuser hoping to find comfort, and see the words “no offenders found.”
“You’ve already gone through court, lots of therapy, lots and lots of things to piece your child back together and to piece your family back together, and to know that the system, once you get your justice, is not following through appropriately, doing that last step, putting the period at the end of the sentence, would be very frustrating,” Hogue said.
To add insult to injury, Hogue said at that point, many parents feel like they don’t have the power or energy left to pursue the last piece.
She called it “disheartening.”
After her child’s abuse, Hogue turned to Darkness to Light. It’s a non-profit organization aimed at empowering adults to prevent child sexual abuse. She said it’s important for adults to realize that abusers are often not strangers in the park but people close to the child or family.
Hogue also suggested contacting the solicitor’s office or a victim’s advocate if you notice an offender is not on the sex offender registry.