Child protection measure shelved

Last updated 10:52 05/03/2014

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The Government has dumped plans to introduce restraining orders that would have kept suspected child abusers away from children for up to 10 years.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett announced this morning that Child Harm Prevention orders were "on hold."

As part of the Vulnerable Children Bill the orders would have allowed High Court and District Court judges to impose the civil orders on people tried for offences like incest, grooming or violation, even if they aren't convicted.

They would have kept suspected abusers away from parks, pools, working with children and even sitting next to a child on a bus.

But Opposition parties and advocacy groups like Every Child Counts and Rethinking Crime and Punishment questioned the legality of slapping orders on suspected abusers.

A regulatory impact statement had warned the legislation would be seen by many as "punitive and contrary to the presumption of innocence, and therefore as an infringement of fundamental rights".

However, the Government withheld large chunks of the report, released last year.

"We've carefully considered submissions to the select committee on these orders," Bennett said.

"Given the range of other protective measures the Government is introducing, we believe we will achieve improved protection of children without these orders.

"I am reserving the right to revisit the need for such orders in the future. They're just off the table for now."

The minister said enhanced extended supervision orders (ESOs), public protection orders, police safety orders and GPS tracking for child sex offenders were among measures being introduced to protect children from abuse.

The Greens welcomed the decision to remove the orders from the legislation, saying they were an "untested experiment."

“It is great that the Social Development Minister has listened to the concerns raised about the orders and we hope she will be open to changing other aspects of the Bill if experts recommend that they’re also not in the best interests of children,” Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei said.

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