17 Dec 2015

New scheme for disclosing a partner's criminal past

2:50 pm on 17 December 2015

A new scheme will allow police to tell people if their partner has a violent criminal past.

Police.

Police will consider the release of information under the scheme on a case by case basis. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The Justice Minister and Police Minister jointly announced the disclosure scheme this morning.

It allows anyone to make enquiries about a person they are in a relationship with, if they have safety concerns. Police will consider the release of information on a case by case basis.

The aim is to let partners of previously violent individuals be informed when considering whether to continue a relationship.

In Wellington yesterday, Michael Preston was sentenced to life in prison for murdering his former wife, Mei Fan, after a protection order had been issued against him.

Police Minister Judith Collins said the Official Information and Privacy Acts already allowed the release of such information, but the new system would improve the quality of the service.

Justice Minister Amy Adams said there was a need for police to be aware of what information they could release.

"It's about getting the police to think consistently across the country about how they can use the powers they already have under the Privacy Act.

"What we found was that police across the country at the front lines were very unsure about what they could and couldn't say, and when they should and shouldn't say something to someone."

Women's Refuge chief executive Ang Jury said, when it came to stopping domestic violence, every bit helped.

"Everything that's coming, they're additional tools in the toolbox. Nothing's by itself an amazing game-changer, there's no silver bullet, but if you add all of those tools together, we're actually getting a far more coherent picture."