Register to monitor violent criminals

ANDREA VANCE
Last updated 10:39 14/11/2012

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A planned sex offenders register will also monitor some of the country's most violent criminals.

After a fact-finding trip to Britain, Police Minister Anne Tolley has unveiled more details about her proposal.

The database will track those convicted of habitual violence, and likely to be subject to an extended supervision order, as well as sex offenders.

Tolley also favours establishing different criteria, depending on perceived risk. Offenders will be required to register periodically and inform police of any changes to their home address, employment or relationship status.

''The English have convinced me that it should be violent and sexual offenders ... The ones who have a record of continual violent behaviour, they are the ones that put the community most at risk when they disappear off.''

Tolley asked officials to begin work on the plan earlier this year, when it emerged convicted sex offender Te Rito Henry Miki had worked in North Island schools.

The British register was introduced 15 years ago. About 55,000 offenders are registered as lowest risk, about 2500 at the next level and 500 as high risk. 

''The real selling point is... they have to report in... any change in their life ... that allows those who are managing them to re-assess their risk.''

Often lifestyle changes, such as the break-up of a long-term relationship, ''can be a tipping point''.

''It's not just a punitive thing. It's a way of keeping [on] monitoring these people so you can step in when something changes,'' Tolley said.

Police and Corrections are supportive of the register and are working on a proposal for the minister to take to cabinet. She hopes to have the regime in place by 2014.

Tolley also dismissed concerns about privacy, pointing to various levels of clearance that operate in Britain.

''You just have to design secure systems and constantly monitor it ... Government can't sit on its hands just because it's afraid to set up a system.''

However, Labour's police spokesman Kris Faafoi said the Government was not resourcing police to monitor registered sex offenders.

''It's one thing to have a register but it's another to have the resources to monitor those on the register.

''Our frontline police officers are coming under increased pressure from National's Budget cuts to do more with less. Can they really be expected to monitor those on Anne Tolley's register?''

CHANGE IN CULTURE

Inmates will have more freedom to plan out their day, under sweeping plans to reform prison culture.

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Tolley visited Serco-managed Doncaster prison in England earlier this month. The private prison operator runs Mt Eden and has just been awarded a contract to build a facility at Wiri.

Inmates in the English prison manage their bank accounts, food, and attendance at classes or appointments.

''We've got lots of rules of things why you can't do a lot of stuff,'' Tolley said. ''But you can't institutionalise [offenders] and then expect them to suddenly de-institutionalise themselves.

''We have to find ways, without loosening up security, but loosening up the day to day and putting more responsibility back on prisoners to do it for themselves than have it done to them. That's part of that culture shift.''

The system would be ''incentive based,'' she said.

''You behave yourself and we will give you more ability to make choices on how to live your life.''

The government has set a target of reducing re-offending by 25 per cent within five years.

''We need to shift the culture in our prisons pretty quickly if we are going to achieve that.''

- The Dominion Post

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