18 Nov 2015

MPs debate new law to monitor deported Kiwis

8:49 am on 18 November 2015

Parliament will resume sitting under urgency this morning to finish passing legislation on a monitoring regime for New Zealanders with criminal records returning to the country.

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Justice Minister Amy Adams Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The Government is rushing through the bill in time for the arrival of a large group of deportees from Australia later this week.

Under the bill, people sent back to New Zealand within six months of getting out of prison will find the police waiting for them at the airport.

The returning prisoner, who must have been sentenced to more than a year in jail, will have to give a DNA sample and report to a probation officer within 72 hours.

Serious offenders who have been out of prison for more than six months can still be monitored, but the Corrections Department will have to apply for a special court order.

The legislation is in direct response to an immigration law change last year in Australia, under which hundreds more people convicted of offences are expected to be sent back to New Zealand.

Justice Minister Amy Adams told Parliament the regime would apply regardless of whether an offender was deported, removed or choose to return to New Zealand voluntarily.

"Developing an appropriate oversight regime for returning offenders is complex.

"We've needed to strike the difficult balance between offenders rights and the public's safety."

The bill would provide protection for New Zealanders where there had previously been none, she said.

Corrections would manage returning prisoners in the community with conditions that are mirrored with those who have served a similar sentence in New Zealand.

Labour MP Chris Hipkins was worried those with minor offences would be unfairly caught up.

"Shoplifting in some areas, for example, would have a prison sentence of more than one year and they would fall within this category.

"We should consider all of the range of offences that might be covered by this legislation and not simply say that the only people that are going to be covered by this are rapists, child sex-offenders and so-on.

"That's not the case, it's going to cover quite a spectrum of people," Mr Hipkins said.

Green Party MP David Clendon believed there was a glaring omission from the bill.

"What I don't see in here is any legislative framework that provides incentives for returning offenders to cooperative, to actively participate, in their own rehabilitation and reintegration."

But Ms Adams said the controls were about overseeing the highest risk period for an offender - which was when they are first released from prison.

It was not designed to be a punitive attack on the offender, she said.

"It is about making sure that someone who has been in an institution and under very strict rules for a long period of time is carefully monitored and watched for offending behaviour and the assistance they require as they reintegrate."

Prior to Australia's law change, between 60 to 100 people were sent back to New Zealand.

That number is now expected to be between 250 to 300.

The house will resume at 9am, picking up at the committee stages where it is being debated clause by clause.

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