Isaac Davison

Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

Cabinet signs off 'flats' for high risk sex crims

Christie Marceau's death while a man accused of kidnapping her two months earlier was out on bail inspired "Christie's Law", a campaign to tighten bail laws.
Christie Marceau's death while a man accused of kidnapping her two months earlier was out on bail inspired "Christie's Law", a campaign to tighten bail laws.

Cabinet has given its support to new public protection orders which could see the country's worst sex offenders imprisoned indefinitely.

Justice Minister Judith Collins told Fairfax Media authorities could apply to the High Court to have sex offenders housed in a "flatting situation" within prison grounds, with offenders able to ask for a review.

The proposals would affect the small number of incredibly dangerous sex offenders, about five to 12 every decade, who are accessed as being at risk of reoffending.

Mrs Collins told Fairfax extended supervision orders, where an offender is monitored 24 hours a day upon release, is not adequate for these offenders.

"Basically this is about keeping children safe from child sex offenders - the sort that once upon a time would have been committed to a forensic mental health unit," she told Fairfax.

She said had signed off on public protection orders, and she expected to introduce related legislation to Parliament at the end of the year.

The proposed public protection orders come as a bill which makes it more difficult for serious violent, sexual or Class A drug offenders to get bail was backed in Parliament at its first reading yesterday.

If the amendments become law, people charged with serious crimes would have to prove to the Crown they would not be a threat to public safety if allowed out of custody.

This change reverses the burden of proof for bail cases involving serious offences. At present, it is usually the prosecutor's responsibility to prove a defendant should not get bail.

The bill was passed yesterday by a vote of 105 in favour to 15 against. National, United Future, Act, the Maori Party and Labour supported the bill and Greens and Mana opposed it.

The first reading followed the launch of a community movement called "Christie's Law" which aimed to tighten bail laws. It was created by the Sensible Sentencing Trust and the parents of Christie Marceau, who was allegedly killed by 19-year-old Akshay Chand.

Chand was on bail at the time and facing a charge of kidnapping Ms Marceau two months earlier.

Justice Minister Judith Collins has encouraged Ms Marceau's parents to make a submission on the bill, which will now go before the law and order committee.

Speaking on behalf of Mrs Collins, MP Chris Finlayson said last night: "This Government is committed to bail laws that make New Zealand a safer place and keep victims at the heart of our criminal justice system."

He said the bill would also broaden the list of offences requiring a defendant to demonstrate why they should be released on bail when they had a history of criminal activity.

This list would grow to include kidnapping, aggravating burglary, assault with intent to rob, and child sex offences.

Sexual violation and aggravated robbery already have the burden of proof for bail.

The bill also created stricter bail measures for youths. Repeat offenders aged between 17 and 19 would be subject to adult tests for bail.

Police would be able to arrest any young person breaching bail and take them home, and would also be able to arrest a person skipping bail without needing a warrant.

Mr Finlayson said this measure would be used sparingly and only for youths who had made repeated or significant breaches of their bail conditions.

The Labour Party said its support for the bill was conditional. MP Phil Goff said the party wanted the select committee to decide whether it was robust legislation or whether it was just political spin.

Mrs Collins said the bail conditions had to strike a balance between keeping the public safe and maintaining fundamental criminal rights such as presumption of innocence and freedom from arbitrary detention.

- NZ Herald

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