16 Sep 2015

Sex offender register will enhance child safety - Tolley

6:38 am on 16 September 2015

Legislation setting up a child sex offender register has passed its first hurdle in Parliament with unanimous support.

The bill would allow police and the Department of Corrections to set up a register for convicted child sex offenders who were 18 or over when they broke the law.

National MP Anne Tolley.

Anne Tolley says a sex offender register will enhance child safety. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The details kept in the register would include fingerprints, photographs, aliases, addresses, workplaces and employers, car registrations, computer IP addresses and passport details.

Depending on the seriousness of the offending, those details would stay on the register for a term of life, 15 years or eight years.

Police and Corrections Minister Anne Tolley told Parliament that child sexual abuse was a serious problem in New Zealand.

"The establishment of a child sex offender register will further enhance the safety of our children, by ensuring the appropriate agencies have the information that they need about registered child sex offenders who are living in the community."

Attorney-General Chris Finlayson tabled a report on the bill, saying it breached the Bill of Rights Act.

But Mrs Tolley had a different view.

"There are no restrictions placed on where the individual can live or work, who they can live or associate with, or when and where they can travel - including overseas.

"They are only obliged to report any changes in their circumstances."

Labour Party justice spokesperson Jacinda Ardern said Labour supported the bill but had some reservations.

"The ability to rehabilitate these offenders is undermined if ever these registries become public, because as much as there is public pressure about opening up information like this, it actually undermines our ability to keep young people safe."

Green Party corrections spokesperson David Clendon said the party would support the bill going to a select committee, but it would need to be convinced of its benefits.

"We'll be wanting to engage with the research to be persuaded that actually that is the case, because such evidence that there is seems, at best, ambivalent about whether these registers actually do any good in the real world, or are they simply a means of appearing to do some good."

The legislation will be considered by the Social Services Select Committee.