One in four criminals sentenced to home detention in Rotorua courts is breaching their conditions, new figures show.
Figures obtained by The Daily Post under the Official Information Act show that between 2007 and 2011, 450 people were sentenced in the Rotorua District Court or the High Court at Rotorua to home detention. Of that number, 118 people have appeared in court for breaching their home detention conditions.
The number of breaches has drawn criticism from a local justice campaigner, who is calling for authorities to do more.
The number of breaches each year has been increasing, with 37 recorded last year compared with 27 in 2008.
Only those facing a jail term of two years or less can be considered for home detention and the sentence can be imposed for a variety of offences, including violence, sexual assaults, drink-driving and other driving behaviour, fraud, burglary and drugs.
Of those sentenced to home detention for violent offences nationally between 2007 and 2010, the majority had been convicted of assault, while 17 per cent were convicted of aggravated robbery and 5 per cent for threatening behaviour.
There was one case nationally where a sentence of home detention was imposed for attempted murder and four cases where home detention was imposed for manslaughter, according to a published review on home detention.
The Department of Corrections could not supply information on the specific nature of breaches but common reasons for breaching home detention include leaving the address without approval, consuming alcohol and failing to attend rehabilitative programmes.
Of those 118 who breached home detention, 53 did not receive any further sentence, 20 were sent to jail, 16 were not convicted and 15 were sentenced to community work. Others had a deferred sentence or were sentenced to home detention, community detention or faced a monetary penalty.
Sensible Sentencing Trust Rotorua spokesman Peter Bentley said 25 per cent of people breaching home detention was something the department needed to look at.
Many people were being sent back to the living conditions they were in before they committed the crimes.
"It's almost a reward for some of these people."
Mr Bentley said he was surprised 13 people had been sentenced to home detention for aggravated robbery.
"That's ludicrous. Aggravated robbery is one of the most serious [crimes]."
He believed home detention had its place for the likes of white collar crime but was not appropriate for violent offences.
People who commit violent offences proved they could not be part of society.
Mr Bentley said he was concerned almost half of those who breached home detention received no further penalty and he said the court was "rewarding those 53 [people] for thumbing their noses at the system".
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said most of those offenders would have been convicted and discharged. He said the court might only convict and discharge an offender where it was satisfied that conviction was sufficient penalty and one could assume the circumstances of the breach were relatively minor.
Community Probation central region operations manager Heather Mackie said the number of breaches demonstrated the rigour of the home detention sentence itself and the vigilance with which probation staff managed and followed up home detention breaches.
"It is important to note that the majority of offenders who breach their home detention sentence go on to complete their home detention sentence requirements."
Home detention was both rehabilitative and punitive.
"Certain offenders can retain employment and access to rehabilitative programmes in the community, as well as maintaining family relationships. Authorised absences can be approved by a probation officer at their discretion. However, probation officers are careful to maintain the integrity of the sentence and public safety," Ms Mackie said.
Offenders can be breached when they fail to meet any standard and special conditions of home detention.
Standard conditions can include compliance with electronic monitoring conditions, restrictions on association with certain people, and residence conditions. Special conditions are tailored to the individual to address their offending. These may include a special condition of participation in rehabilitative programmes that may address drug or alcohol issues.
The department has a range of internal sanctions that are used when offenders fail to comply with home detention, which may include a verbal or written warning, more frequent reporting to the probation officer, or withdrawal of approved absences.
"If the conditions of home detention are not met, an offender can face formal breach action.
"This means the offender is taken back to court and can be fined up to $2000 or sentenced to up to one year's imprisonment, or sentenced to another community-based sentence."
HOME DETENTION SENTENCES
2007 - 14
2008 - 98
2009 - 95
2010 - 138
2011 - 105
HOME DETENTION BREACHES
2007 - 0
2008 - 27
2009 - 23
2010 - 31
2011 - 37
TOP TEN OFFENCES SENTENCED TO HOME DETENTION
Drink driving: 71
Dealing or trafficking illicit drugs: 57
Obtain by deception: 30
Driving while disqualified or licence suspended: 16
Cultivate illicit drugs: 15
Manufacture illicit drugs: 15
Aggravated robbery: 13
Breach of community service: 13
- Figures of those sentenced to home detention in the Rotorua District Court and High Court at Rotorua