24 Apr 2013

Minister to review act in wake of Bayliss case

9:18 pm on 24 April 2013

The Justice Minister says she will review a recent amendment to the Privacy Act, following

the revelation that a convicted murderer had killed before in Australia.

On Tuesday, a High Court jury found Jeremy McLaughlin guilty of murdering the daughter of his former partner at her Christchurch home.

McLaughlin, 35, strangled 13-year-old Jade Bayliss before setting fire to the house in November 2011, just days after Tina Bayliss had gone to the police seeking a trespass order against him.

In 1997, McLaughlin was convicted of the manslaughter of 14-year-old Philip Vidot in Perth two years earlier. He served six years of a 12-year sentence before being deported to New Zealand in 2001.

However due to privacy laws, Mrs Bayliss was not told of McLaughlin's criminal history until after he had killed her daughter.

An amendment to the Privacy Act in March this year means agencies, including the police, can release information about a person if they think there is a serious risk to safety - and even if the risk is not deemed imminent.

The minister, Judith Collins, said on Wednesday that she is taking advice on whether the law should be amended again.

"I'm getting advice on whether or not we need to amend the law. But I do know that I want us to have a situation where if there are genuine concerns around safety, that safety must come first."

Ms Collins also wants to ensure that the information police get from other jurisdictions, such as Australia, is correct.

The officer in charge of the Bayliss case, Detective Senior Sergeant John Rae, said he would welcome changes to privacy laws that make it easier for police to warn people who might be at risk and help make communities safer.

"Obviously people are worried about this situation and suddenly finding that they could be a target. Certainly, in my 38 years, I can't remember another child being killed in their own home. If we can get more information out there, it would help people be better prepared."

Deputy Police Commissioner Viv Rickard said he supports the idea of sharing information on convicted killers in an appropriate way.

But the Law Society says police were right not to tell Tina Bayliss that the man she had just ended a relationship with had a conviction for manslaughter.

Jonathan Krebs, convenor of the society's criminal law committee, said the current law does not allow police to give out private information about a person's convictions without their permission - and that is probably a good thing.