Tuesday, December 27, 2005

292 Sex Offenders On Parole In New Zealand

More than 120 of nearly 300 sex offenders on parole are living in the lower half of the North Island.

The Corrections Department, sensitive about possible outrage if communities discover a convicted sex offender, has issued the figures but would not specify which towns the 292 offenders were paroled to. Regional breakdowns show Wellington has 33 offenders, Taranaki and Wanganui 34, Hawke's Bay and Gisborne 28 and Waiariki 28.

Sensible Sentencing Trust spokesman Garth McVicar said the department should identify where sex offenders lived because the shock of unwittingly finding a sex offender in a community was the catalyst for extreme or vigilante reactions.

A Christchurch woman was driven from her home this month after it was revealed that her brother, a convicted sex offender, might be granted home detention at her house. Residents of Blackball, on the West Coast, drove out a convicted paedophile in May, after he was identified.

Plans had to be scrapped last year to resettle serial sex offender Lloyd McIntosh after concerns about where he would be sent. Also in May, an intellectually handicapped man was driven out of Whitby, near Wellington, after a smear campaign wrongly labelled him a paedophile.

Mr McVicar was not surprised 292 sex offenders were on parole.

"I think the policy is absolutely wrong and you're going to have more of the reaction there recently was in Christchurch . . . I have every confidence in New Zealanders that if they know where these guys are going to be and if they know that every opportunity has been taken to rehabilitate them, the community will be more forgiving than what the Corrections Department thinks."

Mr McVicar said parole for sex offenders should be abolished, and such criminals should be made to attend treatment programmes while in jail.

In response to an Official Information Act request for the number and whereabouts of paroled offenders, the department supplied a list of regions where sex offenders were paroled.

Corrections' general manager of probation and offender services, Katrina Casey, said privacy exceptions allowed under the act applied.

"We believe there are no circumstances in the public interest . . . that would make desirable the release of information in the detail requested."

Giving out the information could also lead to breaches of name-suppression orders made to protect the identity of victims, she said.

Sex offenders on parole, by region: Taitokerau 12, Waitemata 22, Auckland 36, Manukau 17, Hamilton 27, Waiariki 28, Taranaki-Wanganui-Tararua 34, Hawke's Bay-Gisborne 28, Wellington 33, Nelson-Marlborough-West Coast 9, Christchurch 31, Dunedin-Invercargill 15.

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