8 Sep 2016

Child sex offender register to go ahead

6:33 pm on 8 September 2016

Legislation setting up a register for child sex offenders has passed its third and final reading in Parliament.

New Zealand parliament; beehive

New Zealand parliament. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The bill aims to reduce offending against child victims by providing government agencies with the information needed to monitor child sex offenders in the community.

The register will be administered by police, and shared among government agencies.

Convicted abusers will remain listed on it for a time based on the seriousness of their offence, with three tiers of eight years, 15 years or for the rest of their life.

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley said currently they could disappear back into communities when they completed a sentence or order.

"These offenders will be required by law to provide a range of personal information and inform police of any change in their circumstances, which will allow a dedicated team of police and Corrections staff to know where they are and track changes in their lives."

Ms Tolley said those on the register for life could apply to the district court to be suspended from it after 15 years if they could prove they were safe to be in the community, unmonitored.

Labour Party children's spokesperson Jacinda Ardern told Parliament the bill did not go far enough in protecting children because all the register did was collect names and addresses.

She said it should have included information about rehabilitation and community-focused programmes for offenders upon their release.

Green Party MP David Clendon agreed that, on its own, the register would achieve very little.

He said it also afforded offenders very little privacy.

"To the extent even if they choose to spend a night or two away from home, they are obliged to give advance notice of that.

"Their digital world, or footprint, will be entirely available to authorities, so it's an incredibly intrusive means," Mr Clendon said.

New Zealand First MP Darroch Ball was pushing for the register to be made public.

"It's not about naming and shaming.

"It's about listening to the victims. It's about ensuring that we put the protection of our children first. The only way that can happen is if this is a public register."

But Labour MP Kelvin Davis said making the register public could be dangerous.

He said most children were abused by someone they knew, and naming the offender publicly could harm the children further.

"It could be a disincentive for people, for children, to report that someone in their family, or some friend, had offended against them."

Ms Tolley was adamant the register would not be made public because of the risk of vigilante action.

The legislation was passed 107 to 14 votes, with the Green Party opposed.

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