5 Dec 2014

Sex offender detention laws criticised

12:24 pm on 5 December 2014

New laws passed by Parliament to keep dangerous sexual and violent offenders locked up for longer are being described as draconian.

Prison bars

Photo: RNZ

On Thursday, the Public Safety (Public Protection Orders) Bill passed its third and final reading alongside the Parole (Extended Supervision Orders) Amendment Bill.

The law changes will allow the Department of Corrections to renew supervision orders for high-risk sex and violent offenders for as long as needed. The High Court will also be able to detain high-risk individuals using a public protection order, until they no longer pose a serious and imminent threat to public safety.

Vice-president of the criminal bar association Noel Sainsbury said the laws appeared to be criminal justice window dressing and breached the Bill of Rights.

For a very small group of people you are creating effectively open-ended sentences.

"That means that a person sentenced on one basis - and some of these people have already been sentenced - and yet that sentence can just continue indefinitely.

Mr Sainsbury was also concerned the laws may later be moved to cover other type of offenders.

However former detective Colin Mackay, who led the inquiry into serial sex offender Stewart Murray Wilson, said the focus should be on the rights of victims not offenders, and welcomed the new laws.

"Rehabilitation in many cases is excellent and works but there (is) the odd one where there is very little chance of rehabilitation taking place and therefore there needs to be the mechanism to deal witht those sort of cases."

Correction Minister Sam Lotu-Iiga told Parliament the two bills would better protect New Zealanders from the country's worst offenders.

"Together these two bills fill the gaps we've identified in managing high-risk offenders once there are no custodial options."

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