22 Aug 2016

Community backlash forces Corrections to move sex offender

5:30 pm on 22 August 2016

A sex offender living in the Lower Hutt suburb of Maungaraki is being moved by Corrections after angry objections by members of the local community.

Department of Corrections logo

Extra resources are being brought in by Corrections to help with placing offenders in the community. Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

The man, who has not been named, will instead be housed at a residence in the grounds of Christchurch Prison until another suitable place can be found in the Wellington region.

Corrections National Commissioner Jeremy Lightfoot said the decision had been made because of the negative reaction of the Maungaraki community to the offender's presence.

More than 400 residents in the suburb had turned out to two separate community meetings to discuss the move and express their concerns.

A group of residents and Lower Hutt mayor Ray Wallace also met Corrections representatives to urge the department to reconsider its decision to allow the offender to live in Maungaraki.

One resident, Yasmeen al-Asad, told RNZ she was thrilled the man had now been moved elsewhere.

"My kid goes to Maungaraki School and he sometimes takes his bike to go down there and it has been quite stressful," she said.

Yasmeen al-Asad was thrilled to hear of the convicted paedophile's relocation from Maungaraki.

Yasmeen al-Asad was thrilled to hear of the man's relocation. Photo: RNZ / Eric Frykberg

"At the back of my mind I am asking if he will be OK and if he goes to the dairy I am always thinking, 'You be back in five minutes'."

Mr Wallace said the man's placement had always been the wrong choice.

"The house was overlooking the street. It was also overlooking neighbours with children," he said.

"There was also I believe a track at the back of the house leading to local schools so it was all against their own guidelines."

Mr Lightfoot said the service provider that was to have monitored the offender had terminated its contract with Corrections because of the community's reaction.

He said the offender would be subject to stringent conditions within the prison grounds.

Corrections was also bringing in extra resources to help with the placement of offenders in the community, he said.

Initial placement defended

Mr Lightfoot said his staff worked with police, the Ministry of Education and the Hutt City Council, and took all reasonable steps to ensure the safety of the community before placing the man.

The man had been managed in the community for more than 10 years without re-offending.

He was subject to direct supervision at all times, and could only leave his residence with prior approval and while being accompanied by a minder.

He was electronically monitored and was given strict exclusion zones.

The department is now back to square one in finding somewhere for him to live.

Another Maungaraki resident, Cushla O'Neill, who was also among those to oppose the placement, said it was a sign a better way to deal with released offenders was needed.

"There is a bigger broader issue here and that is around the placement of these kinds of offenders in general," she said.

"I am not referring to people who have done their time and show remorse.

"They deserve the right to be supported, it is really the people who don't want to change or can't change.

"They are not being reintegrated into the community, they are really in prison away from prison - there must be better solutions."