Legislation passed to establish first child sex offender registerSocial Development
Social Development Minister Anne Tolley says New Zealand’s first child sex offender register will soon get under way, following the passing of enabling legislation.
The Child Protection (Child Sex Offender Government Agency Registration) Bill has passed its third reading in Parliament, with the register set to commence 30 days after Royal assent is granted.
“Children deserve to be kept safe from harm, which is why we are going to be more proactive in managing the risk of reoffending from child sex offenders,” says Mrs Tolley.
“Currently, these offenders can disappear back into communities when they have completed a sentence or order. When the register begins operating 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.
“These changes can be a trigger for reoffending, and staff will be able to monitor and assess these risks and take any necessary action.”
Offenders will be required to be on the register for a term of life, 15 years or eight years depending on their offence and the sentence imposed, and any failure to give the necessary information, including giving false information, is punishable by a fine or imprisonment.
Budget 2016 invested $8.2 million in development and operating costs for the register, with Cabinet already having agreed $35.5 million for the technology component.
“Work started on plans for a register four years ago, and I want to thank Police and other agencies for their hard work,” says Mrs Tolley.
“I made it clear right from the start that this would not be a public register, as we need all of these names in one place and on one register, to include those with and without name suppression so that no offenders can fall through the cracks.
“The safety of children comes before everything else, and we now have another tool to make sure they aren’t harmed.”
Notes for editors:
- 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. They 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.
- Registered offenders, when living in the community, 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.
- If the registered person fails to comply with reporting requirements, or provides false or misleading information, these are offences with a maximum penalty of imprisonment of one or two years respectively, and a fine of up to $2,000 or $4,000 respectively.
- An offender who has been sentenced to imprisonment for a corresponding offence in another country, or is subject to registration requirements for a corresponding offence in another country, will also be registered if they intend to move to New Zealand.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.