New law to reduce unnecessary parole hearings

  • Judith Collins

A Bill to cut back on unnecessary parole hearings for offenders who still pose a threat to the community has passed its first reading in Parliament.

The Parole Amendment Bill will amend the Parole Act 2002. Justice Minister Judith Collins says the change will implement the Government’s Post-Election Action Plan to reduce the number of unnecessary parole hearings where the offender has little prospect of release.

“Currently, up to 800 unnecessary parole hearings take place each year, placing needless stress and anxiety on victims of crime,” Ms Collins says.

“It makes no sense to hold parole hearings for offenders who refuse to acknowledge their offending and have made little or no effort at rehabilitation.”

Under the current Act, once an offender is eligible for parole, the Parole Board has to consider releasing them at least once every 12 months. On average, each offender has three hearings before they are approved for release. A third of all offenders have four or more hearings.

The new Bill increases the maximum time between parole hearings from 12 months to two years. For offenders serving indeterminate sentences or sentences of 10 or more years, the maximum time between parole hearings increases from three to five years.

Future hearings will also be aligned with the completion of core milestones in an inmate’s offender plan – agreed activities and goals that aim to reduce likelihood of reoffending.

“These changes aim to reduce the number of unnecessary parole hearings, not increase the length of time offenders spend in prison. Offenders who are making progress on rehabilitating themselves will not be affected,” Ms Collins says.

The Parole Board holds more than 6,000 parole hearings each year.

The Bill has been referred to the Law and Order Committee for consideration.