Govt plans sex offender register

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley says the bill is part of a programme of work that aims to...
Social Development Minister Anne Tolley says the bill is part of a programme of work that aims to keep young people safe from harm. Photo: NZ Herald
New Zealand's first register of child sex offenders is to be set-up - with the Government saying currently such people can "disappear into communities".

Police and the Corrections Department will run the register, which will be established under legislation introduced to Parliament today.

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.

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley said such a register would breach the rights of those on it.

"Yes it does [breach people's rights]. But from the point of view of the Government and communities, you are saying, what is the most important thing - that we do keep our children safe and take all reasonable steps...or, that we give these offenders more protection. Because they can disappear into our communities now and nobody knows where they are, let alone the police."

That "balance" between tracking offenders and not infringing on their rights after they have served their sentence would be tested in select committee, Ms Tolley said.

"It is not unreasonable to keep a register of where people are. That's all. No one else is interfering in their life. They can go and live their life, but we are asking that they register every 12 months to keep those details up to date."

The Child Protection (Child Sex Offender Register) Bill will track convicted child sex offenders aged 18 or over at the time of committing their offence 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, or have been on an overseas register, if they intend to reside in New Zealand

Offenders will be on the register for life, 15 years or eight years, depending on the severity of their crimes.

If their information changes, police must be notified within 72 hours or offenders will face charges of up to $2000 or one year in prison, or both.

Penalties of up to a $4000 fine and a maximum jail term of 2 years will be established for those giving false or misleading information.

The register is scheduled to be in place by July 2016.

Authorised Police and Corrections staff, and authorised staff from relevant agencies such as the Ministry of Social Development and Housing New Zealand, will be able to share relevant information in the register.

There will not be public access, but in certain cases, such as where there is a threat to a child, information may be released to a third party such as a parent or teacher.

"We need to make sure that there are adequate protocols in place. I have confidence that the police can maintain this. Their own database is pretty secure...I can't remember any breaches," Ms Tolley said.