A legal loophole that allowed a rapist to move in next door to his victim is to be closed.
Justice Minister Judith Collins asked officials to investigate after she learned of an Invercargill woman who was left "a prisoner in her own home" when her attacker was released.
Collins will introduce legislation to Parliament later this year to create a new kind of protection order. Victims of serious sexual or violent crimes will be able to apply to a court to prevent their attacker living or working near their home.
The rape victim whose plight prompted the law change said she did not want anyone to go through the same experience.
"Hopefully it will help other people," she said.
Her attacker, who served a four-year sentence, moved into a property next to her city flat. Police were powerless to act because a protection order in place did not specify he could not live beside her.
"I felt horrible knowing what he did to me and knowing he was right next door. It makes me want to cringe," she said.
Collins said she was deeply affected by the case and would take the proposal to Cabinet in the next few weeks, creating a new order under the Harassment Act.
"There was a gap in the law. The order is designed to prevent unwanted contact with the offender and covers situations such as employment in addition to residence. It's a high test: it's not just ‘I don't like you'.
"There has to be a victim of a serious violent or sexual offence who has to apply to the court. There is no requirement for the victim to prove the offender is deliberately trying to cause distress, which is very hard to prove."
The order will apply for a fixed term which could be indefinite. Breaching the order will attract a maximum six-month jail sentence or a fine of up to $5000. If there are two breaches within three years the maximum penalty will be increased to two years' imprisonment.
She anticipates it will only apply to "a handful" of people.
Collins said she would be happy for a select committee to consider if the relatives of murder victims should be eligible.
National has proposed a series of measures to crack down on sex offenders, including tough new penalties for child pornography offences, announced last month.
GPS tracking for at-risk offenders has just been adopted by the Corrections Department. Public protections will give the Government the power to indefinitely detain the worst paedophiles. And Corrections Minister Anne Tolley is currently considering a sex offenders register.
"The actions of child sex offenders are some of the most despicable crimes imaginable," Collins said.
"They destroy children's lives and families for generations to come."
Collins said people were often naive about how dangerous sex offenders could be.
"They are highly manipulative and often get themselves into positions of trust," she said. She recalled a law reform lobbyist asking her "if I'd hugged a paedophile".
"He thought we should be embracing them and they would be cured by all this love.
"I thought that was naive. Am I waging something of a campaign against them? Yes. And for those who think there is something wrong with that - they are wrong."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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