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Sex offender orders 'might breach rights'

ADAM DUDDING
Last updated 05:00 13/05/2012

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Corrections has warned the Government that new "public protection orders" for keeping dangerous sex offenders locked up beyond their original sentences could be challenged by the United Nations on human rights grounds, and that they risk breaching the Bill of Rights.

Last week Justice Minister Judith Collins announced Cabinet had signed off on the public protection orders first proposed in November, and that she expected to introduce legislation this year.

Collins has rejected suggestions drafting legislation was being held up because of human rights hurdles, and said any legislation would be "assessed for consistency" with rights affirmed in the Bill of Rights.

But a March cabinet paper prepared by Corrections, released to the Sunday Star-Times under the Official Information Act, shows officials have flagged human rights pitfalls.

Under the orders, some prisoners, mainly sex offenders, face being kept in purpose-built secure accommodation within prison grounds despite having served their full sentences, on the grounds they still present an unacceptably high risk to the public.

The cabinet paper, supplied with two-thirds of its pages deleted, says measures imposed at the end of a sentence are problematic from a rights perpective, and have the potential to be found to breach the Bill of Rights and international obligations.

Four Australian states have enacted similar orders, and the UN Human Rights Committee has found that to breach the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Australia's federal government has yet to respond.

Human Rights Commission head Dr Judy McGregor said legislation would be monitored "for implications it might have for international human rights standards and the Bill of Rights". She said the commission would be making a submission to the relevant select committee based on that analysis.

Corrections Minister Anne Tolley said work was being done to ensure the regime stood up to scrutiny.

She said advice from officials, along with information on what hadn't worked overseas, would ensure the orders did their job, which was "to keep these dangerous offenders out of our communities".

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- Sunday Star Times

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