Laws which manage returning New Zealanders with convictions overseas may contravene the prohibition against retroactive penalties and double jeopardy in the Bill of Rights, says the New Zealand Law Society.

The Law Society presented its submission today to the Justice Select Committee which is reviewing the Returning Offenders (Management and Information) Act 2015.

The Act allows special conditions to be imposed on a returning offender which may have an element of double jeopardy or additional punishment, the society claims.

In a statement this afternoon, the Law Society said it was concerned about the appropriateness of the regime, and noted that the public did not have an opportunity to file submissions before it came into law.


"In 2015 the Act was introduced and passed under urgency in only two days, and there was no opportunity at the time for public consultation," Law Society spokesman Jonathan Orpin-Dowell said.

"The Act affects people's rights under the Bill of Rights Act and the committee should consider inviting the public to have input into the current review of the regime."

Orpin-Dowell used the example of an offender being subjected to a further period of supervision on an existing sentence.

"It's this additional punishment which can create an inconsistency between New Zealand offenders and overseas offenders," he said.

"The legislation may also apply retroactively. The Act applies to convictions in respect of offending which occurred before the Act was passed. This may be a direct breach of the prohibition against retroactive penalties in the Bill of Rights Act."

Orpin-Dowell said there are also "significant concerns" about how the Act is operating in practice, with special conditions appearing to be being imposed in all cases.

"This is inconsistent with the Attorney-General's expectations when the Act was passed and the Ministry of Justice's 2017 review report reveals the Act has not operated as intended," he added.

The Law Society has recommended special conditions only be imposed where the court is satisfied they are necessary to achieve the purposes of the Act.

It also recommended a range of other amendments, if the Act is to remain as part of New Zealand's laws.