Cabinet will decide on sex offenders' register

STACEY KIRK AND TESSA JOHNSTONE
Last updated 05:00 28/04/2014

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Research into a sex offenders' register has already netted 11 cases where convicted paedophiles were in areas or situations where they had close access to children.

Police and the Department of Corrections have been working together to develop a proposal regarding a sex offenders' register which Cabinet will decide on in the coming weeks.

Corrections Minister Anne Tolley said because the two departments were sharing more information about the movements of paedophiles, police had already intervened in cases they would not have otherwise known about.

New Zealand was one of the few developed countries in the world that didn't have some form of register.

"The proposal that we're putting together to take to Cabinet will have a range of time spent on the register, depending on the offence that someone's been convicted of; eight years, 15 years or life," Tolley said.

But those who were being managed by Corrections under extensive supervision orders or public protection orders would not be included.

As well as an offender's name and whereabouts, crucial information about their risk and likelihood of reoffending would be available to relevant agencies.

Tolley said the register was the "final gap" in closing down the opportunities for paedophiles to reoffend. A GPS tracking system for the worst offenders released into the community was introduced 18 months ago.

"We've had 20 breaches in the 18 months that we've been using that, some of whom have been put back in prison."

One of those men was caught frequenting a public library, which he was banned from.

But the minister stressed any register had to be for the authorities' eyes only.

"We want a register with everyone on it, and if they've got name suppression then they can't be on a public register."

She cited a recent case where a man had his house burnt down while he was at work, because his community found out his criminal history.

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

"It makes sense for government agencies to share appropriate information when our children's safety is the priority.

"We are not opposed to information sharing, but we have an absolute bottom line that no such list, register or information should ever be made public, or shared publicly," Ardern said.

The Sensible Sentencing Trust runs its own public register of sex offenders. Spokesman Garth McVicar said the Government's proposal was a "step in the right direction" but the lobby group called for it to be made public.

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He rejected the notion it would lead to widespread vigilantism.

"If [people] know who is in their community and the risk they pose, they can take necessary actions to protect their children from them."

REGISTER MAY HAVE SAVED WOMAN

One victim believes a sex offenders' register may have prevented her being sexually assaulted as a child.

The South Island woman is now fighting to have her name suppression lifted almost 30 years on, because she has discovered her offender is running a babysitting business.

"I'd be devastated as a parent to find out 20 years later, which is often what happens because children often don't report it at the time, if somebody was in a position to do something to try and fix this but didn't, and my child ended up getting abused," she told The Dominion Post.

Victims of sex crimes were afforded automatic name suppression to protect their identities, but this often meant the offenders went unnamed as well.

The woman, now 49, said the assaults began when she was 10, and continued until she was 14. Her offender was eventually convicted when she reported it to police almost 20 years later.

The man was sentenced to a year in prison, but released without having completed any rehabilitation programmes.

An admission of guilt is required to take part in the programmes, but he never admitted to his crimes.

He was eventually released back into the community, with his name still suppressed.

The woman said sexual offending needed to be recognised as an illness, which needed constant treatment.

"There definitely needs to be a monitoring system, and a support system in place for them.

"He never admitted it, his wife is in denial and this guy is running a public business that has access to children, and offers a babysitting service and there are no controls at all in place."

She said it was up to the offenders to prove they were no longer a risk to children. "Until they do that, they don't have any rights, as far as I'm concerned."

Police Minister Anne Tolley said the woman's case was exactly the scenario police would hope to prevent with the aid of a register.

"She knows who he is, and some of the local police might know who he is if he stayed in the area, but what concerns me is when he finished his time and is released back into the community and he can just disappear anonymously back into the community.

"But if he moved to a different part of the country, no one may necessarily know and he could start again."

- The Dominion Post

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