Some crims on home detention likely to reoffend

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More than 150 Northland criminals are on home detention, but new figures suggest one in five are likely to be re-convicted within a year.

Figures released under the Official Information Act show 159 offenders are on home detention in the Tai Tokerau (Northland) district.

The Corrections Department failed to specify how many of these criminals had breached their conditions.

Sensible Sentencing Trust spokesman Peter Bentley said home detention should be regarded as a privilege and was not an appropriate sentence for crimes of a violent or sexual nature.

A former Kaitaia Family Church pastor was sentenced to nine months' home detention last month for what one of his victims called a "disturbing and disgusting habit" of taking photos up women's skirts.

Eric Clifford Reid admitted 25 charges of making an intimate visual recording and 24 of possessing intimate visual recordings.

All charges but one related to a woman who attended the same church and had known Reid for many years. The last related to a 16-year-old girl.

"A lot of these people who are on home detention are not deserving of any breaks, they've committed a crime for which a custodial sentence is warranted," Mr Bentley said. "They should be put in a place where they can reflect on their misdeeds."

By letting offenders serve out their sentence in their home, the justice system was putting the offender in the same situation as when they committed the offence, he said.

Although home detention may be warranted for "very low level, minor crime", it was not an appropriate sentence for crimes of a violent or sexual nature, Mr Bentley said.

If home detention conditions are not met, offenders can be fined up to $2000, jailed for a year, or given another community-based sentence.

Nationwide, there are more than 40,000 offenders serving community-based sentences, 1700 on home detention.

Home detention was introduced in November 2007. Corrections describes it as the second-most restrictive sentence available to the courts after imprisonment.

It is also comparatively cheaper as the daily cost of administering a home detention sentence is $58, compared to $249 for imprisonment.

Corrections assistant general manager Maria McDonald said home detention was intended for offenders who would otherwise have received short jail sentences of two years or less.

The sentence requires an offender to remain at an approved residence at all times under electronic monitoring.

The maximum home detention sentence is 12 months, the minimum is 14 days.

Ms McDonald said home detention had one of the lowest re-conviction rates of all community sentences and orders.

"A significant proportion of re-convictions that do occur are for a breach of the sentence as opposed to any other criminal act," Ms McDonald said.

Corrections declined to reveal the number of ankle bracelets which are currently active or how many had been damaged or broken in the past five years, citing commercial sensitivity.

The bracelets are not owned by the Corrections Department, but leased from G4S, a British multinational security services company.

Home detention by the numbers

  • 159 offenders on home detention in Tai Tokerau district (as at October 31)

  • Costs $58 per day, $10,486 annually per offender

  • 1700 offenders on home detention nationwide

  • 21.2 per cent re-conviction rate

  • 40,000 offenders on community-based sentences nationwide

 - Source: Corrections

- Northern Advocate

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