The government is making an urgent, retrospective law change this afternoon to make sure hundreds of sex offenders are put back onto the national register.
Amendments to the Child Protection (Child Sex Offender Government Agency Registration) Act 2016 will be introduced today.
This follows a Supreme Court decision last month, that found the act was not clear enough about people who committed an offence before the Act came into force in 2016, and were convicted and sentenced after 14 October that year.
It found it did not cover that group of offenders, so police have had to remove “hundreds of individuals” from the Child Sex Offender Register.
The law change will mean the Act applies to to all individuals who have committed a qualifying child sex offence, regardless of when the offence occurred.
The longer offenders off register, ‘the less ability police have to monitor them’ – Williams
Police Minister Poto Williams says it is “essential for the wellbeing and safety of children, and their whānau”.
“We are taking urgent action for the safety of our tamariki. The longer these offenders are off the register, the less ability police have to monitor them.”
“The whole purpose of the Act was to establish a Child Sex Offender Register that would reduce sexual reoffending against child victims,” she says, “and the risk posed by serious child sex offenders, through monitoring of registered offenders”.
Williams was asked if there had been any incidents with any of these offenders while they were off the list and not under full police monitoring.
“We’ve been working at pace,” she told reporters, “to ensure that we can get them back on the register, we’ve got the ability to continue to monitor for a short period of time, but we need to get them on the register to ensure that they can”.
The court decision was on 9 February, so why the delay to change the law?
“There are a unique set of circumstances that apply to those people, so the police had to be very clear about who that was.
“As soon as they were I was notified and Cabinet was working quickly and also with parties across the House to ensure that we got the legislation done quickly,” Williams says.
She was asked to give an assurance no offenders had taken advantage of the time they were off the register, but could not: “The police have had an ability to monitor most of those people, but the longer they are off the register, the harder it will be for them to monitor that”, she told reporters.
The amendment will also ensure that any individuals sentenced for a qualifying offence after the Supreme Court decision can be placed on the register, either by confirming their eligibility or enabling review of any decision not to register.
It will also mean police can register individuals convicted of historical child sex abuse, particularly important in the context of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care, Williams says.