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Govt to expand monitoring of child sex offenders

Government to expand monitoring of child sex offenders

The government is considering new measures to improve the monitoring of convicted child sex offenders once they are released from prison, Justice Minister Phil Goff said today.

The measures for active management of child sex offenders beyond the current parole period include significantly extending parole periods, and civil restraining orders that could be imposed on offenders considered a danger to the community.

Mr Goff said new changes to the Sentencing and Parole Acts allowed for longer sentences, including preventive detention for the most serious offenders, stricter parole conditions and more information sharing between Police and Corrections.

"These have already proven effective, with the most serious offenders such as Barry Ryder now likely to be kept in custody for a long time and perhaps the rest of their natural lives," Mr Goff said.

"The next step is to improve the ability of agencies to monitor sex offenders in order to minimise the chances of them re-offending after release," Mr Goff said.

"A register of child sex offenders, as proposed by Deborah Coddington's member's bill, will also be looked at as a serious option. However if the names and addresses of convicted sex offenders were simply recorded, this by itself would be of limited usefulness and add little to current police intelligence.

"What is needed is a system that permits high-risk child sex offenders to be supervised, supported and controlled well beyond the end of the current parole or supervision period.

"The next step forward will be taken next month when Corrections, Police, CYF, the Ministry of Social Development, and Housing begin a best-practice scheme in Dunedin to improve inter-agency management of sex offenders.

"The scheme will see probation officers work with designated representatives from the other agencies to ensure the risks and needs of offenders are identified and managed appropriately to minimise potential re-offending.

"Once the Dunedin scheme is working we will make any necessary adjustments and then gradually roll it out throughout the rest of the country. "However while the government is confident that better inter-agency coordination will strengthen the control of child sex offenders on parole, we also have to address how best to monitor offenders who are considered a threat but have completed their parole period.

"Options include giving judges the power to impose longer parole periods and civil restraining orders. Such mechanisms would enable child sex offenders to be monitored and subject to control for longer periods of time than normal parole if there is significant evidence of likely re-offending. "In England, for example, such civil orders allow the imposition of prohibitions such as not being able to go with 200m of a school, or not being able to live or work with children. Breaches carry a penalty of imprisonment.

"Police must prove to the court that the person has a past conviction for a serious sexual offence and that he presents a danger to the community.

"These measures are aimed at establishing an effective monitoring and control system for those still considered a risk after completing their sentence, ensuring that the safety of children is properly protected," Mr Goff said.

Officials are due to report back on post-parole management options in June.

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