New Zealand Law Society - Community reaction leads to relocation of offender

Community reaction leads to relocation of offender

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The Department of Corrections says it has relocated an offender from Maungaraki in the Hutt Valley to a residence on the grounds of Christchurch Men's Prison in an interim arrangement until a further suitable residence can be identified in the Wellington region.

It says the offender will continue to be managed by Corrections "under the same stringent conditions".

National Commissioner Jeremy Lightfoot says the relocation of the offender became necessary as Corrections' service provider's staff had become increasingly uncomfortable with the community's reaction to their presence.

"Because of this, the service provider regrettably terminated its contract early," he says.

"My staff and our provider went to a great deal of care and effort in placing and managing this offender in Maungaraki.  Corrections worked closely with other agencies including the Police and the Ministry of Education. The local Council was advised ahead of the placement. Immediate neighbours were notified of the placement, as is my preference with such cases. I firmly believe that Corrections took all reasonable steps to ensure the safety of the community," Mr Lightfoot says.

"The offender was, and continues to be, subject to direct supervision at all times.   He may only leave his residence with prior approval and must be accompanied.  In addition, he is electronically monitored with strict exclusion zones.  He has been managed in the community for more than 10 years without re-offending.

"It is a daily reality that offenders move to reside in the community at the conclusion of their custodial sentences.  Once released, offenders will frequently be subject to further restrictions depending upon the level of risk that they pose and the likelihood of reoffending. In most cases, as it was with this offender, these restrictions are sufficient to protect the public. We also know that a supportive social network and stable accommodation reduces the likelihood of reoffending."

Mr Lightfoot says Correction has a statutory responsibility to place offenders in the community following both the direction of the court and the Parole Board, and this is not an authority they can fail to act on as it is the law.