The Government's ability to monitor 25 high-risk paedophiles will expire next year unless Parliament can push through a law to allow supervision orders to be applied indefinitely.
Among the 25 is Lloyd McIntosh, whose offences include the rape of a 23-month-old baby and a 6-year-old. He is one of 228 child sex offenders who have finished their sentences and are now subject to Extended Supervision Orders (ESOs).
At present these orders impose conditions, such as GPS tracking, and have a 10-year limit.
But under the Parole (ESOs) Amendment Bill, which passed its first reading in Parliament yesterday with cross-party support, a judge would be able to renew them as often as necessary for up to 10 years each time.
Each order would be reviewed every five years to mitigate inconsistencies with the Bill of Rights Act - in particular the right not to face double jeopardy or have penalties imposed retroactively.
The bill would broaden the scope of ESOs so they would apply to adult sex offenders and violent offenders at high risk of reoffending, for whom there are no tools to manage long-term risk once out of prison.
Included in the bill are 16 violent offences from murder to acid-throwing to robbery, but a high threshold would apply - Corrections only expects one to two violent offenders to qualify every five years.
"The first ESOs lasting ten years will begin to run out at the start of next year," Police Minister Anne Tolley said.
"We need to act to ensure that those offenders who still pose a risk at the end of an order can continue to be managed by Corrections."
The Labour Party supported the bill, but with reservations.
"We do not offer that support lightly," Labour MP Phil Goff said during the first reading.
"Whenever we have a piece of legislation that is found to be inconsistent with the Bill of Rights Act, that means we have to give it particular attention, because we are cutting across rights that we would normally extend to all New Zealanders."
He said it was now up to the select committee to strike the right balance.
Overall Corrections expects between 29 and 41 ESOs each year under the new bill, most of them for paedophiles, but four to nine would be sex offenders against adults.
The bill would also introduce 24-hour intensive monitoring for the first year of an order, which could cost up to $300,000 a year.
Each five-yearly court review would cost $5000. Overall the package has been costed at an additional $2.5m over the first five years.
Mr Goff said the costs of more court reviews and intensive supervision may seem high, but the social cost of doing nothing is potentially higher.
"Just consider the cost to a child who is sexually violated in a way that some of the victims of Lloyd McIntosh were violated and then, I believe, that sort of cost can be and is justified."
Corrections considered extending the current system to allow for 20-year ESOs, but some offenders may still pose a serious risk beyond 20 years.
It estimates that about six offenders a year are at such a high risk of offending to warrant an order for longer than 10 years, and three offenders a year for an order longer than 20 years.
Extended Supervision Orders
- Imposed on high-risk child sex offenders who have completed their prison sentence
The Parole (Extended Supervision Orders) Amendment Bill
- Allows ESOs to be renewed and extends them to high risk sexual and violent offenders
- Would apply to an estimated 4 to 9 sex offenders against adults per year, and 1 to 2 violent offenders every five years
Now: 228 Extended Supervision Orders
Next year: 25 will expire