WARNING: This story contains graphic language
Eleven years ago, Daniel Hannebury pleaded guilty to a child sex charge, landing himself on the National Sex Offender Registry for 20 years.
His victim was five years old at the time, and Hannebury had convinced her to lick his penis in a single incident. A pre-sentencing report indicated he felt what he had done was awful, but he had admitted he fantasized about touching the girl in a sexual way. The child had been wearing only underwear at the time, he was quoted as saying, and she had pulled them down and “got me going.”
Hannebury was sentenced to four months of house arrest, three years of probation and a spot on the sex offender registry for two decades.
Friday afternoon, in an instance so rare only a few in the country have succeeded, Hannebury tried to convince the provincial court to remove him from the database.
The 59-year-old Mount Pearl man filed a public application for an early termination of his sex offender registration. Ironically, he told the court during the public hearing in St. John’s he was worried people would find out he’s on the registry by seeing him during his mandatory yearly check-ins at RNC headquarters and recognizing him.
Hannebury said he had applied for a number of jobs over the past 10 years but had never gotten a call back, and he felt it was because potential employers had discovered his sex offender status. He told the court he also wanted his name removed from the database so he could travel.
“What actual reasons do you have, other than wanting to travel?” Crown prosecutor Jude Hall asked, pointing out that the database isn’t shared with customs officials and wouldn't impact travel (a criminal conviction, however, could).
“My girlfriend of two years and four months wants me to,” Hannebury replied.
Hannebury has no other convictions.
He acknowledged he has never undergone sex offender treatment, but said the psychiatrist he was seeing until 2012 knew about his crime. He replied with a vehement “No” when asked by his lawyer, Catherine Boyde, if he had any urges that might put a child in danger.
“I want to have a clean slate in life,” Hannebury testified.
Implemented by the federal government in 2004, the National Sex Offender Registry was designed to help police narrow down suspects when investigating sex crimes. To be removed from the database, a person must convince a judge that the impact to their privacy and liberty is “grossly disproportionate” to the public safety benefits of keeping them on the list.
There are currently close to 45,000 sex offenders from across the country on the registry. As of five years ago, according to a report by MacLean’s, 10 people (none of them from this province) had successfully applied to the courts to have themselves removed.
After taking a recess to examine the sex offender registration act, Judge Mike Madden turned Hannebury’s application down, saying his situation was no different than that of any other registered sex offender. The impacts Hannebury had described amount to mere inconveniences and didn’t meet the “grossly disproportionate” test, Madden said.
The risk of people discovering his name on the list “Is a risk that all people on the registry have to face, and if that was found to be grossly disproportionate, everyone would be eligible” to be removed, Madden said.
“There didn’t seem to be any reason that didn’t apply to everybody.”