New Zealand Law Society - Child sex offender register legislation passed

Child sex offender register legislation passed

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Parliament has passed the Child Protection (Child Sex Offender Government Agency Registration) Bill.

This will come into force 30 days after the Royal assent is granted.

The legislation's stated purpose is to establish a Child Sex Offender Register that will reduce sexual reoffending against child victims, and the risk posed by serious child sex offenders.

This will be done by providing government agencies with the information needed to monitor child sex offenders in the community, including after completion of their sentence, and by providing up-to-date information to assist the Police to more rapidly resolve cases of child sexual offending.

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley says $8.2 million was allocated by Budget 2016 in development and operating costs for the register, and Cabinet has agreed on $35.5 million for the technology component.

Who will be on the register - and for how long?

Offenders will be registered on the Child Sex Offender Register when they are convicted of a qualifying offence (and were aged 18 years or over when the offence was committed), are sentenced to imprisonment, or sentenced to a non-custodial sentence and directed to be registered at the discretion of the sentencing judge. 

Qualifying offences are specified in Schedule 2 of the legislation.

Offenders will remain on the register for either 8 years, 15 years or for life, depending on the severity of the offence they committed and the sentence received.

Information required

When living in the community, registered offenders will be required to provide a range of personal information for the register. They must update the information annually, within 72 hours of any change of details, and at least 48 hours prior to travel or change of address. 

This information will enable the Police and Corrections to use accurate and up-to-date information to identify changes that may raise the risk to public safety posed by known child sex offenders living in the community.

Retrospective legislation

The legislation has retrospective powers. Those offenders who were convicted of a qualifying offence and sentenced to imprisonment prior to the legislation coming into force, and are still in prison or have been released from prison but are subject to conditions or extended supervision orders on that date, are required to be registered.

How many people are likely to be on the register?

Police estimate that there will initially be around 1750 people in total on the register, made up of around 550 living in the community who will be required to start reporting, and around 1200 who will be on the register but are still serving their sentence in prison. After five years it is estimated that there will be around 3000 people on the register in total, with around 2100 in custody and around 900 living in the community.

Access to the register information

Only authorised Police and Corrections staff involved in monitoring child sex offenders will have direct access to information on the register. There are clear operational policies and directives regarding the use and confidentiality of information. 

Anyone who makes an unauthorised disclosure of information held on the register may be charged with an offence.

Information sharing between relevant agencies is recognised as an important element in the monitoring of risk of reoffending by known child sex offenders. For this reason relevant information held on the register will be able to be shared with specified agencies (Ministry of Social Development, Housing New Zealand, DIA and Customs) in the interest of public safety.  Disclosure protocols apply in these circumstances, to maintain the confidentiality of the information between agencies. These agencies can also provide relevant information on registered individuals to Police and Corrections.

Release of information to third parties

Police will be able to release some information about a registered offender to a third party, such as a parent, teacher, or caregiver, if there is a significant threat to the safety of a specific child or children. The release of information will be subject to senior approval and strict protocols.  Unauthorised disclosure of the information received by an affected party to another person, eg to a friend, will be an offence.

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