Public access to sex offenders register ruled out

STACEY KIRK
Last updated 13:58 27/04/2014

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A register for sex offenders is set to be a new tool for New Zealand authorities, but just who gets access to that list remains unclear.

Police Minister Anne Tolley confirmed a register was being developed, and cabinet was considering a number of options over who might be captured on it, and who would be able to view it.

Speaking on Q+A, Tolley said it was likely the register would first be focused on anyone who had been sent to prison for an offence against children.

"That's quite a small number of people, probably about 300 to 350 of those either come out of prison or come off a community sentence each year."

She wasn't ruling out expanding the group to include those who had committed sexual crimes against other adults.

"That's something else cabinet needs to decide. But we're proposing we start on a very small targeted group, evaluate it after three or four years, and we'd design the legislation so it then can be expanded."

The register would be managed by the police, but the Department of Corrections, for which Tolley is also minister, would also have access to it.

Other Government agencies that had direct dealings with the impact of sexual abuse on children would likely also have access - that could include the Ministry for Social Development, and the Department of Building and Housing.

Any list would not be open to the public however.

"I understand the community concern, and if I was a parent I would want to know," Tolley  said.

"But there's two reasons; first of all to have that one register where everyone is on it - we would want all the people who have name suppression, and many of them do have name suppression to protect their victims.

"Secondly, there is very good evidence that, particularly with high-risk offenders, will be driven underground. If a neighbourhood finds that they have a sex offender living in their neighbourhood they're going to drive them out."

The point of the register was to protect children, and Tolley said police would be able to use the register to warn people on their choice of partners.

As party of their release conditions, offenders would be required to update their information with police on a regular basis - some more so than others. Depending on their crime and sentence, some offenders may be able to move off the register, while others would be on there for life.

But the register would not simply contain location details. Part of the information that would be collected about offenders would be through regular risk evaluations.

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Labour police and corrections spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern said the government must apply stringent checks, to ensure the information was never made public.

''It makes sense for Government agencies to share appropriate information when our children’s safety is the priority. In fact I am sure the public expectation would be that this should be happening.

''Labour is keen though to see the detail around the Government's plans to make sure they are appropriate and will make children and communities safer," she said.

"If such a register was ever made public, or leaked, it could undermine the potential benefits of such a regime." 

- Stuff

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