Govt wants to start child sex offender register
By 3 News online staff
A register which will keep track of convicted child sex offenders has been introduced by the Government, but the Attorney General is concerned it breaches the Bill of Rights.
Social Development Minister Anne Tolley's Bill has been introduced to Parliament today and is part of a wider programme of work aiming to keep young people safe.
She says it will stop offenders "disappearing" back into the community once released from their sentence.
It would allow police and Corrections to establish the register of those aged over 18 at the time of committing the offence.
But Attorney General Chris Finlayson has deemed the register wouldn't comply with the Bill of Rights Act because it would impose double jeopardy.
He says it is not consistent with the section of the law which says people have a right to not be subjected to disproportionately severe treatment or punishment.
But Ms Tolley says the register was always going to be "a balance".
"You're balancing the rights of people who have been convicted, who have served their sentences and been released, and the safety of children in the community."
She was "well aware" it would be contentious, but although Cabinet approved it, they knew it was most likely to breach people's rights.
"I think this is going to be argued in the select committee. We're not asking for people to be continued to be locked up, all we are saying is we want to keep track of where they are in the community," Ms Tolley says.
No changes will be made to the Bill before it goes to select committee.
The public won't be able to see who is on the list, but in some cases information could be released to third parties such as parents or guardians, a teacher or caregiver responsible for a child.
"At the moment, offenders can disappear back into communities when they finish a sentence or order.
"By gathering information authorities will be able to keep track of these offenders, while also being alert to any changes in their circumstances."
Under the proposed Bill, all registered child sex offenders will be required to report to police within 72 hours of their release if directed to by a judge.
Relevant information from a number of government agencies such as the Ministry of Social Development and Housing New Zealand will also contribute to the register.
Convicted child sex offenders serving a sentence at the time the new legislation comes into force, or convicted afterwards, will need to be registered.
The register is scheduled to be in place by July 2016.