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Parole and Sentencing Amendment Bill 2nd Reading

Phil Goff Speech: Parole (Extended Supervision) and Sentencing Amendment Bill first reading

I move that the Parole (Extended Supervision) and Sentencing Amendment Bill be now read a first time. It is my intention to move that the Bill be referred to the Justice and Electoral Select Committee for consideration, and that the committee have the authority to meet at any time while the House is sitting (except during oral questions), and during any evening on a day on which there has been a sitting of the House, and on a Friday in a week in which there has been a sitting of the House, despite Standing Orders 193 and 196(1)(b) and (c).

Part 1 of the Bill contains the major policy initiative. It creates an active management regime for child sex offenders in the community aimed at managing the long-term risks posed by these offenders. Part 2 contains a number of miscellaneous amendments to the Sentencing Act 2002 and the Parole Act 2002. Some clarify the legislation to ensure that the original policy intent underlying particular provisions is implemented. There are also technical amendments to deal with drafting errors.

The active management regime for child sex offenders will allow extended supervision orders to be imposed on child sex offenders who are likely to continue to sexually victimise children once their sentence is finished. There is currently no provision for this to occur.

The Bill allows monitoring for up to 10 years of child sex offenders who have received a finite sentence of imprisonment for a relevant offence and who the Court determines are likely to re-offend following the expiry of their sentence.

Offenders covered by this provision are those who have committed child sex offences in the Crimes Act or sexual violation or attempted sexual violation where a child victim is involved.

The Department of Corrections will assess all offenders serving a finite sentence of imprisonment for a relevant offence to determine whether an application should be made before the end of the sentence for an extended supervision order.

Where an assessment indicates that the offender has a high or medium high risk of reoffending the Department will apply to the sentencing court for an order.

The court can impose an order for up to 10 years if satisfied that the offender is likely to commit further child sex offences once the offender’s sentence has ended.

The offender will be given notice of the application and have the opportunity to appear personally or be represented by counsel to defend the matter. The Bill provides also for a right of appeal for both the Department and the offender against any decision to grant or decline an application.

If an offender is made subject to an order, standard parole type conditions will apply automatically throughout the term of the order. In addition the Parole Board can impose special conditions that can include home detention type conditions and conditions prohibiting the offender going to specified places or areas.

Home detention conditions can apply for up to the first 12 months. Other special conditions can apply for the full term of the order. The Board can also require the offender to be subject to electronic monitoring to check compliance with these conditions.

The more rigorous conditions will apply to the highest risk offenders who justify a more intensive management regime. Transitional provisions will ensure orders can be sought for those currently serving a sentence or under parole or release/supervision conditions as at the date of introduction of the bill. This ensures that those worst offenders sentenced before the Sentencing Act 2002 made preventive detention more widely available do not “fall through the cracks”.

Part 2 of the Bill makes a number of amendments to the Sentencing and Parole Acts to deal with minor issues.

This includes technical amendments that deal with drafting matters such as incorrect cross-references, drafting omissions and anomalies.

This part also clarifies several provisions to ensure original policy intentions underlying particular provisions are implemented. Amendments include changes to provisions relating to home detention, deferral of sentences, and minimum terms of imprisonment.

Front end home detention is potentially available to those sentenced to less than two years imprisonment. The Bill amends the Act to make it clear that the law does not require that leave to apply for home detention be granted “in the normal course of events”.

The amendments in the bill emphasise that the court has the primary role in determining whether wider sentencing considerations such as denunciation, deterrence, safety of the community, the offender’s background and information in the victim’s impact statement make home detention inappropriate.

This will reduce the number of offenders being referred to the Parole Board which is currently declining 40 percent of those given leave to apply for home detention by the Courts.

A related issue is the deferral of sentences to allow offenders granted leave to apply for home detention to make their applications to the Parole Board, which is being granted more frequently than intended.

The bill requires that where a sentence is deferred, the court must impose bail conditions. It also tightens the use of deferral by requiring the court to first be satisfied that there are “exceptional circumstances”.

The bill amends section 86 of the Sentencing Act, which relates to minimum terms of imprisonment, where the Court of Appeal has identified language taken from previous legislation as being problematic.

The new wording makes it absolutely clear that minimum non-parole periods above one third of the sentence should be imposed in cases where the statutory minimum would be insufficient to deter, denounce and punish a serious crime. A similar amendment is made to section 103 relating to setting the minimum periods of parole in murder sentences.

A further substantive change introduced by the Bill is to allow anyone on parole to be placed under electronic monitoring where necessary to reduce risk of re-offending. This has been determined as being consistent with the Bill of Rights.

Finally, I believe it would also be useful for the Select Committee to consider Deborah Coddington’s Sex Offender Registry Bill regarding registration of sex offenders along side of this Bill. The Committee could examine whether a register might strengthen inter-agency information sharing and assist in safely managing sex offenders in the community.

In conclusion, Mr Speaker, the main change this Bill introduces is the power to place recidivist child sex offenders under extended supervision for up to 10 years. This will apply to offenders currently in prison or on parole as well as those convicted after this Bill becomes law. In the highest-risk cases, such offenders will be subject to a strict monitoring and control regime. Crown Law has indicated that this may constitute a breach of the Bill of Rights Act.

However I believe that the right of children to be protected in these instances must come before the right to total freedom of child sex offenders released from prisoners who are deemed likely to offend again. Children are the most vulnerable group in our community and warrant special protection. In these circumstances I believe a breach can be justified.

I commend the Bill to the House.

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