New Zealand Law Society - Child Sex Offender Register gets go-ahead

Child Sex Offender Register gets go-ahead

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Parliament's Social Services Committee has released its report on the Child Protection (Child Sex Offender Register) Bill, with a majority recommendation that it be passed with amendments.

The bill would establish a register of child sex offenders. This would provide the Police, the Department of Corrections, and other specified agencies with information to help to monitor registered child sex offenders in the community.

Offenders would be required to register if they are convicted of one of the child sexual offenders listed in the Schedule, and were aged 18 years or over when they offended, and are either sentenced to imprisonment or a non-custodial sentence and are directed by the judge to be registered.

Offenders on the register would have to provide relevant personal information to the register and to update the information annually, within 72 hours of any change of details, and at least 48 hours before travelling.

The committee recommends a number of amendments. These include:

Giving extra guidance to judges when assessing the risk posed by the offender, and requiring the judge's sentencing notes to be included in the information held on the register.

Amendments to the information required from registrable offenders includes a requirement for offenders to report a change in address at least 48 hours before moving.

The Attorney-General reported to Parliament under section 7 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 that the bill as drafted was inconsistent with section 9, affirming the right not to be subjected to disproportionately severe treatment or punishment.

"We recommend inserting new clause 36A, which we hope will ease the Attorney-General's concerns," the report says.

"It would allow those who are on the register for life to apply to the District Court after 15 years for their reporting obligations to be suspended indefinitely."

Under this clause an offender would have to satisfy the court that they did not pose a risk to the life or sexual safety of one or more children.

Another new clause would enable an offender to appeal to the District Court to challenge the Commissioner's decision about their placement on the register or their reporting period. Appeals from the District Court's decision would be prevented.

A new Subpart 4 in Part 2 would cover the circumstances where registered offenders change their name. While this would be permitted, it could only occur once they have sought and received the Commissioner's approval to do so.

Another concern of the Attorney-General, about the retrospective application of the bill to those already in custody, or on parole, or subject to an Extended Supervision Order is considered. However, the committee says the retrospective provisions are necessary to remove the immediate risk presented by these previously-convicted child sex offenders.

"We believe these offenders should be subject to the reporting requirements."

While many submitters felt the register should be public, the committee says it does not recommend making it available to the public.

The bill was referred to the committee on 15 September 2015, with submissions closing on 28 October 2015. There were 144 submissions, of which the committee heard 22.

The New Zealand Law Society's submission said the bill was unlikely to be effective in protecting children from the risk of sexual offending. The Law Society was also concerned that the proposed register would infringe rights affirmed in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.

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