Sex offender bill approval too fast - Greens

Last updated 17:36 03/04/2009

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The Greens are seething over how the Government handled the closing of legal loophole concerning sex offenders, saying it used dishonest politics to get a law change through at super fast speed.

Last night the Government took the unusual step of putting a bill through all its stages in Parliament to fix a problem with the law covering the supervision of child sex offenders.

Justice Minister Simon Power said there were two "potential loopholes" in existing law which were created when the Parole Act 2002 was amended in 2007.

He said the loopholes might have allowed child sex offenders released on extended supervision orders to avoid conditions restricting their movements.

"These matters, if left unresolved, could have undermined the effectiveness of the extended supervision regime and put the safety of children at risk," Mr Power said.

Extended supervision orders are used for managing the release of child sex offenders who were not sentenced to preventive detention but still presented a high risk of re-offending on release.

All the parties had previously agreed to put the bill on the fast track, but the Greens said they had not been aware that Attorney-General Chris Finlayson was going to present an adverse report.

The report, presented just before the debate on the bill began, said it could be inconsistent with the Bill of Rights Act in the areas of retroactive penalties and double jeopardy.

Green law and order spokeswoman Metiria Turei said it was a poor political process.

"Dealing with sex offenders properly is essential to keep our communities safe, but last night's law change was poorly crafted and badly managed. We are not sure it's actually the most effective solution," Ms Turei said

"But the Government has not thought this through well. The process was slap-dash. New Zealanders should expect better. As well as protecting communities, our party is committed to honest politics and healthy government."

Green Party MP Keith Locke said Mr Finlayson slammed the bill as allowing the `long term detention' of people who had already completed their sentence, thus violating people's rights.

He quoted court proceedings in Britain, Europe and New Zealand and suggested two other legislative paths, namely preventative detention or an amendment to the Sentencing Act 2002 to allow the courts to impose an extended parole.

Mr Power said he was given the legal advice two-and-a-half weeks ago that there was a loophole in the system.

"I had the advice that I had to move swiftly on that."

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He had found out about the Attorney-General's opinion hours before the bill was presented to Parliament.

Mr Power said he had not personally gained the agreement of the Greens to support the bill through all stages in a much-shortened process.

This had been settled at a meeting of Parliament's business committee – a group of MPs who sort out what happens in the House. The orders require child sex offenders to be on parole-type conditions for up to 10 years after release.

Mr Power said the 2007 amendments created doubt about matters that had previously been routine.

"The first area of doubt was whether electronically monitored curfews could be imposed beyond the first 12 months of an extended supervision order," he said.

"The second area of doubt was whether the Parole Board could impose residential conditions without the offender agreeing to comply with them.

Apart from the Greens, Parliament took no notice of the report and the bill became law on a 113-9 vote.

- NZPA

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