Inmates considered unlikely to receive parole could have their hearings put off under planned law changes announced today.

Justice Minister Judith Collins said Cabinet had agreed to introduce screening of inmates to postpone unnecessary parole hearings where an offender has "little chance of release''.

"Victims of crime will no longer need to face the very stressful prospect of parole hearings year after year, when an offender is clearly not safe to release into the community, and has made little or no effort at rehabilitation,'' Ms Collins said in a statement.

Legislation would be introduced to Parliament this year to alter the Parole Act by extending the maximum interval between parole hearings from one to two years.


The maximum postponement period for offenders serving indeterminate sentences and fixed sentences of 10 or more years would be extended from three to five years.

"We expect the five-year term to be reserved for the most extreme cases, as the current three-year term is used only a handful of times each year. Offenders will retain the right to appeal Parole Board decisions and to have their case reviewed,'' Ms Collins said.

Courts Minister Chester Borrows said the changes would also provide greater flexibility for the board to set hearing dates to align with completion of rehabilitation programmes.

"The changes will also provide strong incentives for prisoners to address their offending behaviour - some may even be able to achieve an earlier parole hearing if they reach certain rehabilitation milestones, or successfully complete programmes,'' he said.