Sex offender register opposed

ANDREA VANCE
Last updated 08:53 26/04/2012

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Opposition parties are challenging the need for a sex offenders' register, saying they often become public and are historically prone to mistakes which can devastate innocent people's lives.

Police Minister Anne Tolley is considering introducing such a register, and police and the Corrections Department began work on proposals earlier this year after it was revealed a convicted paedophile was working as a teacher.

The register will not be open to the public and will only be viewed by officials with security clearance.

Both Labour and the Greens say it is a populist move and justice officials already closely monitor sex offenders.

Greens justice spokesman David Clendon said the register would open the door to witch hunts and "unreasonable attention being paid to some of the releasees".

"It's very much about individual cases but many of these people pay some penalty, serve time and never go on to reoffend."

There was routine tracking of released sex offenders and extended supervision orders were applied where appropriate.

"Victims of crimes are routinely informed of released dates and potential release dates, especially with sexual offending."

The Greens would be concerned about how long people would be kept on the register.

"Are people on it forever or after a number of years do their names drop off it if they are clearly not reoffending?"

Labour's justice spokesman Charles Chauvel said Labour would want to see evidence there was a need for a register.

"It's all very well to say let's have a sex offenders' register for officials but what we need to do is be satisfied it actually served some purpose."

A register was a "slippery slope", he said.

"You start with an undertaking it would be a private document used for internal purposes and then in a year or two it's a full blown public document."

Chauvel said the Government's justice policies were "law and order window dressing" which would make "little difference on the street".

However, Sensible Sentencing Trust spokesman Garth McVicar said it was "fantastic"; the lobby group had been calling for a register for years.

"It protects the public. It is the best tool which encourages offenders to change their ways."

The Trust already had a sex offenders' and violent offenders' database on its website.

"We get phenomenal feedback from the public on those."

McVicar said the Trust was very careful about who it put on its database.

"You don't want to ever get something wrong."

Chauvel said a register would not have protected schools from teacher Terito Henry Miki, who assumed fake identities and used forged documents to work in several schools with children as young as five.

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Tolley said the Government will consider introducing a register when former ombudsman Mel Smith finished his inquiry into the Miki case.

The register would be based on a British model.

Figures released this year show the number of convicted sex offenders who breached extended supervision orders rose from 56 in 2008 to 72 last year.

Police and Corrections are permitted to share information on sex offenders with the Social Development Ministry, Housing New Zealand, and Child, Youth and Family. In February the Government introduced the bill to allow a better exchange of data in the public service.

- The Dominion Post

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