20 Oct 2015

NZ can't stop criminals being deported here - PM

6:33 pm on 20 October 2015

Prime Minister John Key says there is nothing the government can do to stop the woman at the centre of one of Australia's most disturbing child abuse cases being sent to New Zealand.

Prime Minister John Key

Prime Minister John Key Photo: Getty Images

The woman - known as "Betty Colt" in court documents - left New Zealand as a young child and is now in her late 40s.

Colt, who has 13 children, was just about to be deported when she lodged an appeal.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Colt had been living on a remote New South Wales farm with about 40 people including malnourished, neglected children.

The police took away 12 of the children and DNA testing revealed their parents were a mix of relatives, including a grandfather and a mother or a brother and sister.

The children also told the police that they'd been sexually abused.

Betty Colt served nine months of a 12 month sentence for trying to kidnap two of her sons from state care.

She is being held in detention and was just about to be deported back to New Zealand when she lodged the appeal.

Mr Key said today New Zealand was powerless to stop her coming back.

"We are going to get some people who come back who aren't exactly the finest New Zealanders, but we can't stop that. I mean, they are New Zealand citizens and we can't strip them of that New Zealand citizenship."

Caucus run 21/07/15

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Justice Minister Amy Adams was confident that under the recently signed Memorandum of Understanding with Australia that New Zealand would get plenty of warning of Colt's arrival.

"If the Australians put her on a plane tomorrow she will arrive, and there is no ability for us to change that.

"What we need to do is make sure that New Zealand authorities have the right information about the risk of any criminal coming back to New Zealand, so that we can understand their risk and background and then put steps in place domestically so that we can have some kind of oversight of them."

At the moment the only way the Government can monitor criminals deported here is by using extended supervision and public protection orders.

Ms Adams said law changes were being fast-tracked, so that parole-like conditions could be imposed on deported offenders.

"So that whether they serve their time in a New Zealand prison, or an Australian prison or another prison, the same sort of conditions will attach to them post release regardless of where that sentence was served.

"At the moment we don't have that ability, there is no legal framework to do that."

Labour leader Andrew Little said the Betty Colt case was just typical of the whole sorry situation with criminals being deported.

"This is there [the New Zealand] Government starts to look reckless by failing to get measures in place to deal with these people."

The Justice Minister's paper to impose parole-like conditions will be ready to go to cabinet in the next few days.

But it was not yet clear whether that law change could be made retrospective, to monitor people like Betty Colt should she be deported to New Zealand before the law was changed.

Meanwhile the former lawyer for the woman said she had a reasonable case against deportation to New Zealand.

Phil Carey said he had spoken to her about her appeal against deportation.

"She has, in my opinion, a reasonable case. The fact of the matter is that a lot of the allegations that were raised against her were first canvassed in the children's court, in front of Justice Johnson, who, in his summary, lumped the whole of the family into one great group."

Mr Carey said the appeal may need to be refined before it can proceed.