The Government is taking action following a Herald investigation, promising improvement to immigrations standards for those convicted of a criminal offence.
The Herald revealed today that a man who had emigrated to New Zealand had twice been convicted of sex offending since his arrival in 2012, but wouldn't be deported is his record stayed clean for the next five years.
Sultan Ali Abdul Ali Akbari arrived from Afghanistan in early 2012, and has since sexually assaulted three victims, including two young girls.
Immigration Minister Woodhouse said he would take steps to improve the decision making authority for cases involving residence class visa holders convicted of a criminal offence.
"I have made my expectations very clear when it comes to deportation decisions involving offending of this nature and those expectations are not being met.
"So I am temporarily suspending Immigration NZ's decision-making authority until I have confidence that the decisions being made are consistent with my expectations.
"This course of action follows today's New Zealand Herald article regarding an individual whose liability for deportation was suspended, despite the severity of the offending."
Woodhouse said he would likely return the decision-making authority to Immigration NZ within a fortnight, as long as he could be assured the process would align with his expectations.
Outrage over non-deportation decision
Afghanistan born Akbari has served prison time for indecently assaulting three victims, including two young girls. But he would not face deportation if his record stays clean for the next five years, which has been labelled "outrageous" by a victims' advocate.
"The decision to suspend liability for deportation for five years was made in this case by a senior official from INZ, who has delegated authority under the Immigration Act 2009 to make such decisions on behalf of the Minister of Immigration," Immigration New Zealand Area Manager Darren Calder said.
"As such there is no legal ability to review the decision."
Immigration New Zealand couldn't confirm how many complaints they'd received relating to the Akbari case, with an estimated 150,000 emails received per year.
Earlier, the Herald received numerous responses today calling for an investigation into the decision.
ACT Leader David Seymour said an explanation as to why Akbari wasn't deported was in the public's best interest.
"New Zealanders might reasonably ask: If assaulting a woman, then indecently assaulting children as young as 8 does not get you sent home, where is the threshold?"
He said in cases like these, Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse should intervene.
"Normally individuals should have their privacy respected to protect their dignity, but this case goes to the heart of public confidence in our immigration settings."
One man who contacted the Herald said he was dumbfounded by the decision, whilst he struggled to gain residency with a clean record. Several commenters labelled the decision ridiculous, crazy and an insult to New Zealanders and other immigrants.
Gina Bryan said the decision to allow the 58-year-old man to stay in New Zealand was "disgusting".
"He's been let off with a slap on the hand and isn't showing any remorse, he shouldn't be able to stay in our country," Bryan said.
"It's despicable and he needs to be dealt with."
She said if Corrections couldn't help him and language barriers were a problem, then Afghanistan's justice system would be better suited to rehabilitate him.
Bryan said she was considering starting a petition and hoped it would get support.
Akbari's offences began after his arrival in late 2012, when in February 2013 he was convicted for indecently assaulting a woman.
In 2015, he was jailed for two years and one month on five charges of indecent acts on girls aged 8 and 10 years old, and indecently assaulting an 18-year-old.
A pre-sentence report found him to be of moderate to high risk of reoffending.
The Parole Board found he made no progress in prison due to a lack of English and did not complete any programmes to address his offending.
Despite the findings, the board agreed he would be unlikely to reoffend.
New Zealand Immigration spokesman Marc Pierce said the decision factored in his family ties and possible implications of a return to Afghanistan.
Akbari holds a residency visa but has been granted a deportation liability suspension, making it impossible to be deported for five years unless he reoffends.
Conditions of Akbari's probation mean he is forbidden from contacting anyone under 16 years old without approval from his probation officer.
"It's important to note that if this individual reoffends within the five year suspension period he will breach the conditions of his suspension and will be liable for deportation," Pierce said.