Anna Leask

Anna Leask is a police reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Home detainees who cut and do a runner

Over the past four years, 141 people have removed their ankle bracelets.

An electronic ankle bracelet monitors offenders on home detention. Photo / NZ Herald
An electronic ankle bracelet monitors offenders on home detention. Photo / NZ Herald

The number of people absconding from home detention is dropping, but offenders are still regularly cutting off their monitoring bracelets to get out and about.

Figures released to the Herald under the Official Information Act reveal that over the past four years, 141 people sentenced to home detention have tried their luck and removed their bracelet to leave the property they are supposed to be confined to.

In 2013, 27 detainees either cut or removed their bracelets and left their home detention address, compared with 34 in 2012, 38 in 2011 and 42 in 2010.

The Department of Corrections national commissioner of corrections services, Jeremy Lightfoot, said there were about 1800 people serving home detention sentences.

"The number who absconded by removing their bracelet only represents approximately 1 per cent of all offenders on a home detention sentence," he said.

"Furthermore, these figures have declined over the past four years despite the total number of offenders sentenced to home detention remaining relatively constant."

The majority of offenders were caught soon after removing their bracelet and charged with breaching their home detention conditions.

However one Auckland offender has been on the run from police since December.

Helensville teenager Levi Hemana, 19, was sentenced to home detention late last year. While awaiting sentencing he was on electronically monitored bail, but cut his bracelet off and was remanded in custody.

Levi Hemana.
Levi Hemana.

Hemana was later sentenced to home detention, but on December 30 he again removed his bracelet and took off. Police say Hemana is actively evading arrest, and he is facing new charges relating to the assault of a man on January 6.

Mr Lightfoot said public safety was the department's "number one priority".

"We manage community-based offenders to ensure they comply with their sentences and orders, thereby minimising their risk of harm to others," he said.

Probation officers were assigned to offenders to ensure they complied with the conditions of their sentence.

"Offenders must wear an electronic anklet to monitor their whereabouts. If the offender tries to remove the anklet or leaves the approved address an alarm is triggered and this is reported.

"The department treats non-compliance with the conditions of a community-based sentence very seriously.

"Enforcement action can be informal ... may include a verbal or written warning, more frequent reporting to the probation officer or withdrawal of approved absences," Mr Lightfoot said.

"If the conditions of a sentence are not met, an offender can also face formal breach action where the probation officer brings proceedings against the offender in court."

The information provided by Corrections also showed that the majority of people serving home detention sentences were men aged between 20 and 29.

What is home detention?

A rehabilitative and punitive sentence that is intended for offenders who would otherwise have received a short sentence of imprisonment, less than two years. The sentence requires an offender to remain at an approved residence at all times. Only a sentencing judge can impose home detention and must take into account a pre-sentencing report and recommendation from a probation officer. The judge must be
satisfied that the offender and the proposed address is suitable before imposing the sentence.

- NZ Herald

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