Minister announces Child Protection Offender RegisterPolice Corrections
Police and Corrections Minister Anne Tolley has announced that the country’s first sex offender register, the Child Protection Offender Register, is to be introduced to help keep communities safe.
The register, which will be held on a secure database, will provide information to a dedicated risk management unit of Police and Corrections staff and psychologists. They will identify, monitor and manage the risk posed by convicted child sex offenders who have come to the end of their sentences, or are serving non-custodial sentences, so that action can be taken before reoffending takes place.
“We want agencies to know where these people are and have more information about their lives,” says Mrs Tolley.
“Any change in their personal circumstances can be a warning sign that they are at risk of reoffending. A register will allow Police and Corrections to be alert to this, and to take any necessary action.”
Only authorised Police and Corrections staff will administer the register and have unrestricted access to the information. Authorised Police and Corrections staff, and authorised staff from relevant agencies such as CYF, Ministry of Social Development and Housing New Zealand will be able to access and exchange relevant information, allowing them to work together in the interests of public safety.
In some cases, where this is a significant threat to the safety of children, information may be released to a third party such as a partner of an offender.
It is estimated that 472 offenders will be registered in the first year, rising to 1541 in year four when an evaluation will be completed, with a total of 2746 offenders registered after ten years.
Registration will apply to offenders convicted in New Zealand, and those who move here following a similar conviction overseas.
Cabinet has agreed funding of $35.5 million over ten years for the technology component of the register, and initial ICT work is already under way.
The Child Protection Offender Register is expected to be operational by 2016, once enabling legislation is passed. It will also require changes to the Corrections Act to allow for information-sharing.
Convicted child sex offenders serving a sentence at the time the new legislation is passed, or convicted afterwards, will need to be registered. Based on the scale of offending, offenders will stay on the register for a term of life, 15 years or eight years.
Registration will be required for offenders aged 18 or over at the time of committing their offence and who are:
- Convicted of a qualifying offence and sentenced to prison.
- Convicted of a qualifying offence and sentenced to a non-custodial sentence, and directed to be registered by the sentencing judge.
- Convicted of an equivalent offence and sentenced overseas, if they intend to reside in New Zealand for six months or more.
All registered child sex offenders will be required to report to the Police within 72 hours of their release from prison or after receiving a non-custodial sentence if directed to register by a judge.
On reporting to Police, registered offenders will need to provide a range of information including fingerprints, photographs, aliases, address, workplace and employer, car registration, computer IP address and passport details.
Offenders must notify Police or Probation within 72 hours of any changes to this information, and must report annually to Police within seven days of the anniversary of their registration to confirm that the information is correct and to be fingerprinted and photographed.
Registered offenders will also be required to advise Police or Probation 48 hours prior to taking a trip away from their registered home address for any longer than 48 hours, to give the dates of proposed travel, the address where they plan to stay and whether children normally reside at the address.
Criminal penalties are to be established for non-compliance with the provisions of the register. A fine of up to $2,000 or a maximum jail term of one year will apply to offenders who fail to report and provide the required information, or who provide false information.
“This is another tool to assist Police and Corrections to reduce the risk of harm to children and families,” says Mrs Tolley.
“Alongside 24 hour GPS tracking for high-risk child sex offenders, and the Centre for Impact on Sexual Offending, the register is another valuable tool which will give agencies even more information which they can collate and analyse, and take necessary steps to help prevent reoffending.
“It will also act as a deterrent for offenders, who will know they are being much more closely monitored.”
Q and A
How will this improve safety?
At the moment, offenders can disappear back into communities when they finish a sentence or order. Authorities have no way of keeping track of where they are and have no way of gathering information of any change in their circumstances which may increase their risk of reoffending. The register will enable agencies to gather continually updated personal information, which can then be assessed and analysed to determine if reoffending is more likely to take place. Police and Corrections would then be able to take the necessary action.
Will the register be open to the public?
No. Only authorised Police and Corrections staff and authorised staff from selected Government agencies will be able to access and share relevant information in the interest of public safety, and to support risk management. A public register was ruled out very early in the policy development. The need for name suppression, often to protect victims, means that a public register would not contain all of the relevant names needed to assess risk and increase safety. Having two different registers was not practical or desirable. A public register would also increase the risk of vigilantism, and have the potential to drive offenders underground, where authorities would have no information on them, or be able to manage and assess their risk.
Can third parties be given information?
Yes. Some information may be released to a third party, if there is a significant threat to the safety of a specific child or children. For example, if someone with children is in a relationship with an offender, then the partner may be given information about the offender’s convictions. This can only be released with the approval of a senior Police officer (at Inspector level or above) or senior Corrections staff member. Where such approval is given in ‘good faith’, immunity from a breach of privacy claim is to apply.
How will you ensure that the information is secure?
Only authorised staff will have access to the register, and there will be 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.
How much will it cost?
Cabinet has agreed additional funding of $35.5 million over ten years for the technology component of the register. Decisions on operational funding will be announced in future budgets, as the ICT element is developed.
What other initiatives have been introduced to reduce the harm caused by child sex offenders?
As a first step towards the register, Police and Corrections started working more closely to share information and intelligence. The resulting Centre for Impact on Sexual Offending (CISO) profiles child sex offenders who are about to be released from prison or who are serving sentences in the community. This is in addition to the introduction of 24 hour GPS monitoring for high risk child sex offenders, where an alarm is activated if an offender goes near an exclusion zone. Over thirty offenders have been breached or put back in prison as a result of the CISO and our introduction of GPS tracking for offenders.
What about the human rights of offenders?
We will ensure that legislation balances the rights of offenders with the rights of children to be kept safe from harm.