9 April 2012 MEDIA STATEMENT
Labour calls for sense on sex offender issue
Justice Minister Judith Collins’ haste to create a civil detention regime for New Zealand’s worst sex offenders will not deter Labour from seeking thorough consultation and a full select committee process, says Labour’s Justice spokesperson Charles Chauvel.
“Labour will not sign a blank cheque in support of the Ministers proposals until the legislation is allowed transparent, consultative debate.
“The issue of offenders who pose a risk of serious reoffending needs to be addressed. But National's civil detention order proposal is unacceptably broad, and lacking in detail,” Charles Chauvel said.
“Public safety is paramount in such sensitive areas, which is why consultation and common-sense must come before political one-upmanship on this issue,” Charles Chauvel said.
"The record demonstrates Labour has always put public safety first. When in government, we changed the law to make the sentence of preventive detention available for cases of horrific first-time offending where there was a real risk of reoffending. This allowed the worst offenders to be kept in jail indefinitely.
"As far as National’s suggested legislative fix, it is widely understood that there will be a short ‘tail’ of offenders – thought to be between 5 and 12- sentenced before this law change who would eventually come up for release over the next decade.
"National's solution is to give the High Court the power to keep offenders in custody indefinitely via a 'civil detention order'.
“But six months after the measure was announced, amid election-promise fever, no legislation has been proposed. Now, with the release of Murray Wilson - the so-called 'Beast of Blenheim'- approaching, the issue has all of a sudden gained political salience.
“Knee-jerk legislation often comes at the expense of democratic process and consultation. In this case it may even breach human rights,” Charles Chauvel said.
"Labour would be prepared to discuss supporting a solution that balances public safety with civil liberties. This could include allowing a judge to extend the preventive detention regime in the up to a dozen cases where an issue has been identified.
"What we will not do is agree to rush legislation through Parliament to fix National's failure to act, especially if it provides for some broad power to incarcerate indefinitely,” Charles Chauvel said.