Former NZ First MP Darroch Ball, who advocates on behalf of victims, has described the Greens as “out of touch” for opposing the registration of child sex offenders.
Nearly 600 child sex offenders will be put back on the national register after MPs rushed through urgent, retrospective changes on Wednesday to the Child Protection (Child Sex Offender Government Agency Registration) Act 2016.
The Supreme Court ruled in 2016 that the law was not clear enough when it came to people who committed an offence before it came into force but were convicted and sentenced after that time. It meant hundreds were removed from the register.
The amendments passed on Wednesday – with support from National and ACT – means the law now applies to all individuals who have committed a child sex offence, regardless of when it happened. It means those people can be monitored by police but the public cannot access it.
The Greens were the only party to oppose the amendments, and Green MP Golriz Ghahraman went further by questioning in Parliament the need for a child sex offender register altogether.
“Children and young people are most often abused, in terms of the types of offending that this piece of legislation encompasses, by those who are very well known to them, in their own homes. They are very rarely abused by strangers,” she said.
“These registers have existed and been applied in other jurisdictions for many years. It’s a measure that we’ve taken… It’s neither here nor there, I guess we could say, if there’s no evidence that it works.
“To persist with it, to lie to ourselves, to lie to victims and the public and say that we’re doing something that is essential to protecting children and young people, whilst we weaken the rule of law as a Parliament is, I would say, unacceptable.”
Ball said any step taken to protect children from becoming future victims of a convicted child sex offender is one that should be taken.
“To say there is ‘very little evidence’ that registers work is disingenuous. The fact is there is no evidence that these registers don’t work. We need every step and protection we can have to put between these offenders and our children,” he said.
“On balance, however, I consider the degree to which the Bill and the principal Act intrude on the right not to be subjected to retrospective punishment outweighs the importance of the Bill’s objective.”
Finlayson also questioned the effectiveness of child sex offender registers, but determined that the objective to protect children outweighed the lack of evidence.
Police forced to remove hundreds from child sex offender register [odt.co.nz – 3/17/21]