28 Oct 2015

Govt defends plan to supervise deportees

9:25 am on 28 October 2015

The government is being accused of being unprepared and scrambling to change the law to deal with hundreds of soon-to-be-deported criminals.

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Justice Minister Amy Adams (right) is asked about the proposed legislation. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Legislation is being drafted to monitor offenders returning to New Zealand after serving a prison sentence overseas - the majority of whom come from Australia.

Supervision would apply only to those sentenced to more than a year in prison and who have returned to New Zealand within six months of their release date.

It comes in the wake of immigration law changes in Australia that have led to hundreds of convicted New Zealanders having their visas cancelled.

However 167 New Zealanders deported since late last year will not be covered by the new regime.

When asked for a breakdown of that figure, Justice Minister Amy Adams conceded some were in the high-risk category.

"The same [167] people would still be in New Zealand. We can't change that and these monitoring conditions are no silver bullet... We know that with [all] the parole conditions in the world, the best monitoring, the best probation service, unfortunately offending still occurs - we do our best to limit it."

But the Labour Party said the government had failed to act in time.

Labour MP Jacinda Ardern

Jacinda Ardern Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Its justice spokesperson, Jacinda Ardern, questioned whether the system would be able to cope.

"We clearly have issues at the moment with monitoring offenders who are released from New Zealand prisons - let alone coming back into the country - so with an additional influx there will be extra pressure on the system.

"The minister needs to be able to check if we can cope with that."

Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox said the party supported an extended regime but she was worried about what happened next.

"What about those people who have no family here? How do we ensure that their needs are being met to reduce recidivism so that they're not returning to further criminal activity to support themselves when they get dumped back on our shores?"

Peter Dunne giving his 2015 Budget speech.

Peter Dunne Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

United Future leader Peter Dunne said he understood the intent of the bill, but he would wait to see a draft before offering his support, and he did have some concerns.

"I can accept the need for some supervision while they adjust to life back to New Zealand but to say to them that you've served your time but we're still going to put you under additional supervision despite that - I think that would be a step too far."

Green Party co-leader James Shaw said New Zealand was simply carrying the cost of the government's failure to get any concessions on Australia's automatic deportation policy.

"We haven't seen the bill yet. It obviously contains some good things such as additional support for people who have landed back in New Zealand but the main thing here is that New Zealanders are essentially carrying the can for Australia's abuse of human rights."

ACT leader David Seymour has confirmed his party's support while New Zealand First said it would discuss the bill within its caucus.

The Law Society, however, is backing the government's supervision regime.

Its criminal law spokesman Jonathan Krebs told Morning Report the government was performing its duty to address possible re-offending by criminals.

There was no "philosphical difficulty" with imposing parole conditions on deportees who had been on a sentence in Australia that would involve parole there, he said.

"I guess what we have to focus on and what Minister Adams seems to be trying very hard to achieve is to make sure that when they come back New Zealand society is protected as much as it possibly can be.

Mr Krebs said the system appeared to be consistent with how convicted people would be treated when released early from prison.

However he would prefer a system where people could not be deported until they had served all their sentence. "What sticks in my craw a little bit, as a taxpayer, is that we then have to monitor and parole Australia's convicts."

The government estimates an average 100 people at any one time would be subject to the proposed supervision regime, which is expected to cost about $7 million over five years.

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