A sex offenders register

April 26th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Andrea Vance at Stuff reports:

Opposition parties are challenging the need for a sex offenders’ register, saying they often become public and are historically prone to mistakes which can devastate innocent people’s lives.

Police Minister Anne Tolley is considering introducing such a register, and police and the Corrections Department began work on proposals earlier this year after it was revealed a convicted paedophile was working as a teacher.

The register will not be open to the public and will only be viewed by officials with security clearance.

I’m staggered anyone could be against such a register, if it is private.

Labour’s justice spokesman Charles Chauvel said Labour would want to see evidence there was a need for a register.

“It’s all very well to say let’s have a sex offenders’ register for officials but what we need to do is be satisfied it actually served some purpose.”

A register was a “slippery slope”, he said.

“You start with an undertaking it would be a private document used for internal purposes and then in a year or two it’s a full blown public document.”

With that reasoning, the Government should have no private registers of anything at all.

However, Sensible Sentencing Trust spokesman Garth McVicar said it was “fantastic”; the lobby group had been calling for a register for years.

“It protects the public. It is the best tool which encourages offenders to change their ways.”

The Trust already had a sex offenders’ and violent offenders’ database on its website.

“We get phenomenal feedback from the public on those.”

I use both databases often. They are a very good tool. Criminal offending is not a private matter.

UPDATE: A reader emails;

The reason why Labour are opposed to a register is they think the current system is working. But who introduced the current system?

 Yet, if it is working, and the toughest in the world, how did Miki, the offender/teacher who was on an extended supervision order, get away with it for so long?

A very good point.

Tags:

32 Responses to “A sex offenders register”

  1. Michael Mckee (1,091 comments) says:

    I suppose we could give them a choice, go on the register or Purple dye on the forhead saying sex offender that won’t wash off.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  2. PaulL (5,872 comments) says:

    In the US there are substantial problems with their register. For example, there’s a well publicised case of a guy who is on it for having sex with his girlfriend when he was 15 and she was 14. Funnily enough she’s not on it. The concept is OK, but as usual with government the actual execution is often very lacking.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  3. Zapper (925 comments) says:

    Is this final confirmation that Labour’s policy of “Oppose everything the government does” is completely out of hand?

    It would be nice to have an opposition that cared more about the country than politics but this lot are just a joke.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  4. Paulus (2,499 comments) says:

    It may turn up some names that Labour would not want to show.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  5. dubya (214 comments) says:

    If only Swiss Balls could speak, Paulus.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  6. Ed Snack (1,734 comments) says:

    I’d oppose it because it will be stuffed up. People will be put on it for trivial reasons and will be vilified. The UK and USA lists are ; and won’t easily be able to get off the list. The UK and US lists are rife with errors. Guaranteed stuff up.

    And how does it “encourage users to change their ways” ? You’re on the list and probably will never get off, regardless of why you were put on in the first place.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  7. wreck1080 (3,726 comments) says:

    I thought we already had one.

    Amazed that we don’t.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  8. somewhatthoughtful (451 comments) says:

    “Criminal offending is not a private matter.”

    Isn’t it? So you’ve never smoked marijuana? Or been complicit in the consumption? That’s a criminal offense right there, and, given your blanket statement, you would be happy for that to continuously and publicly follow you around? Or a minor shoplifting charge? Blanket statements are stupid. This one is one of the stupidest.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  9. RRM (9,435 comments) says:

    I have no objection to a sex offenders register. (Although what Ed Snack said does give me cause for concern.)

    But I find DPF criticising someone else for using an argument about a ‘slippery slope’ deeply and profoundly amusing… you’re all about the slippery slope when it suits you :-P

    I do like “Criminal offending is not a private matter” though – that is a much better tagline for openness and transparency in Justice than any of Slater Oil’s illegal shenanigans…

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  10. cows4me (248 comments) says:

    No wonder Liarbore don’t like it, half the buggers would be on it.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  11. RRM (9,435 comments) says:

    :-o Holy libellous accusations, Batman!

    Cows4me goes large once again…

    cows4me (107) Says:
    April 26th, 2012 at 10:59 am

    No wonder Liarbore don’t like it, half the buggers would be on it.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  12. Letterman (184 comments) says:

    If I had been aware of the SST sex offenders register, I would not have hired this guy to do some building work:

    http://www.safenz.org.nz/sxdb/kinggrant.htm

    and then this wouldn’t have happened:

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10778843

    which means I wouldn’t have to have done this:

    http://www.grantnormanking.com

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  13. slightlyrighty (2,496 comments) says:

    While I have no problem with a offenders database per se, I do have some issues with the Sensible Sentencing Trust publishing such a database. The reason is that there seems to be some debate behind the scenes as to who is listed and why. The state is bound by clearly defined rules. If it were to hold such a database, then, if convicted, you are on the database, no if’s or buts.

    Peter Ellis is not on the Trust’s register. Now if I were in charge of the register, I would not have him on it either, but from a legal standpoint, he should be. The point is, at some point the compiler of this register made the call that despite being accused and convicted of multiple counts of paedophilia, Ellis was not to be listed because of continuing doubts over his convictions. The fact is, however, that Peter Ellis is a convicted paedophile and sex offender, despite what you or I may think of the trial and case of the Civic Creche.

    For the record, I believe that Ellis is innocent, but if there is to be a register, it should be bound by convictions, not the gut feelings of the author. Such prejudices hurt both ways.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  14. Nigel (510 comments) says:

    My take is sex offenders need to be treated different from other criminal offenders & a private register makes absolute sense, but if you look at the USA, you really want it to ensure it contains only offenders genuinely likely to reoffend as opposed to the 15/14 year old example above.
    Maybe a recommendation by the Parole Board with added input from relevant experts would work there.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  15. DrDr (108 comments) says:

    A private register is only private until some ding-a-ling accidently leaks it, like in the ACC sensitive claims example

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  16. Chris2 (754 comments) says:

    A person’s criminal and driving history (not just their sexual convictions) is already available from the Ministry of Justice and the Police, provided the person consents to its release.

    We use a third-party background screening company whenever we hire new staff and the company is wizard at verifying our job applicants qualifications (even overseas), criminal record, and so forth.

    I do not see the need for a specific sex offender register when the existing Ministry of Justice and Police databases already have this information, and its available to employers, if they take the time to request it. If a person won’t agree to their criminal record being released, then you don’t hire them.

    This seems like a kneejerk reaction – a similar reaction to when the then Queensland Premier asked to have access to NZ criminal records after Hohepa Morehu-Barlow stole $21 million from Queensland Health. Queensland Health could have asked at anytime for Barlow’s NZ criminal record, but they were too stupid or too lazy to request it.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  17. Jack5 (4,571 comments) says:

    I want to elaborate on Slightly Righty’s point in his 11.13 post.

    Given the problems with pervert teachers moving around, a sex register looks a good idea. If it keeps bent, cunning perverts out of schools that is good.

    However, in my view a register needs to be some means of protecting anyone wrongly convicted and thus wrongly listed in the register.

    I, too, am thinking of the Christchurch civic creche case, where the court accepted (and those who could overturn the allegations apparently still accept) bizarre tales of sex orgies allegedly involving secret tunnels, trails over roofs, and even lodges, judges, and police. (As in overseas cases, the allegations grew in absurdity as inquiries continued).

    From this case, there are also deep and lasting concerns about the techniques used in interviewing children, and, I understand, controversy about the views and positions of some international specialists who gave evidence, and may have been involved in similiar highly controversial cases abroad.

    The Christchurch civic creche hysteria paralleled similar cases overseas in recent years and over the last several centuries. Some of the overseas cases were eventually tracked back to unfounded allegations made by (in each case) one unhinged person.

    In NZ successive Justice Ministers have declined to look into the case, though Don Brash as Opposition Leader was keen to have it reopened.

    As a result there has never been official acknowledgement of the damage done to many people accused in Christchurch, and of the prison sentence inflicted on one person (Ellis). Other reputable Christchurch people working in the creche had their lives virtually destroyed.

    Unless some method is built into the register of correcting any wrongful conviction, the register’s reputation itself could become a reason for not allowing any consideration of a wrongful conviction. “If we admit this mistake, the whole thing crumbles.”

    Perhaps a register could include a separate section of overturned convictions, though this would not help the Christchurch civic creche/Ellis case victims while Justice Ministers look away. Also, just removing a name might not be enough – injustice as well as justice should be recorded.

    In century or two – or even less – there are likely to be plays and the then-equivalent of films about the grossly bizarre civic creche/Ellis case. It will outlast the register. But until then its victims’ inclusion in such a register will be a stain on it and on our justice system.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  18. mikenmild (10,643 comments) says:

    I’m interested in Chris2′s point – if we can already check a person’s criminal convictions, what is the use of such a register?

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  19. ross69 (3,652 comments) says:

    Neither DPF nor the government has made a case for a sex offender’s register. And why stop at sex offenders? Aren’t there more serious crimes…? It’s a slap in the face for the victims of those more serious crimes.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  20. tvb (4,200 comments) says:

    I would support this move for all offenders subject to an intensive supervision order. Those are the most high risk offenders so far as young people are concerned. And this would be open for inquiry for employers and others where the candidate is likely to have close unsupervised contact with children. The Department of Corrections does keep a close eye on such persons through the ISO but inquiries from employers etc should keep the Department up the the mark so far as administering the Order is concerned.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  21. ross69 (3,652 comments) says:

    http://www.hrw.org/news/2007/09/11/us-sex-offender-laws-may-do-more-harm-good

    “government statistics indicate that most sexual abuse of children is committed by family members or trusted authority figures, and by someone who has not previously been convicted of a sex offense.”

    In other words, a sex offender register would be useless at protecting those victims. But as long as the Tories seem like they’re doing something, that’s all that matters, right?

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  22. Chris2 (754 comments) says:

    mikenmild @1pm – exactly.

    The information is already available and even the Clean Slate Act, which automatically conceals non-custodial convictions more than 7 years old, does not apply to sexual offending, so it will always be released, but the thing is, you do have to request it!

    I asked our background screening provider about the Miki case as one of them had been interviewed on Newstalk ZB about it. He said that it was obvious that none of the schools verified Miki’s identity, or even contacted his previous schools where he claimed to have worked, because if they had they would have discovered his use of false identities. Also, Miki claimed to have two degrees but they were false too, so the schools never checked his qualifications either.

    Miki got away with this, just as Mary-Anne Thompson got away with claiming to have a PhD for 18 years, because no one bothered to check. Establishing a sex offender register will not prevent this type of fraud happening again – there will always be employers out there who think they are a good judge of character and who wont avail themselves of already existing Ministry of Justice and Police records. These same employers will be the ones who wouldn’t use a sex offender register either.

    I suspect the real reason the two un-named Auckland schools Miki worked at, who are seeking permanent name suppression, is because they do not want to be shown up as the incompetent employers that they are, for having hired him without any checks.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  23. marcw (227 comments) says:

    One of the problems we have, and that apparently helped Miki avoid detection, is the ease of changing your name in NZ, without any adequate background checks or verifications. Not even a check on the Ministry of Justice database.

    Perhaps tightening up this loophole would be a start.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  24. backster (2,076 comments) says:

    If the Government really wants to deter this type of offending then they should make the register publicly available. A register closed to all except some officials will lead to embarrassing leaks and maybe even corruption.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  25. Chris2 (754 comments) says:

    marcw @2:56pm – precisely.

    And this is why our business uses a background screening company – they’re the experts at looking at the job applicant”s total historical record (not just criminal), so they also check for the candidates qualifications, past employers, credit record, ACC history, etc, and if there is no real history in the job applicant’s name, (because they have changed their name), well that generates warning signs too.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  26. Falafulu Fisi (2,176 comments) says:

    Can long term people who are living on the dole be regarded as a sex offenders? Well, both sexes (male & female) of the society are being violated by dole bludgers (who don’t want to work) in order to support their lazy lifestyle.

    So, the Govt should look at long term dole people who hang around Kiwiblog all day, every day of the year making useless posts to register them, because they’re a danger to male & female taxpayers’ pockets.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  27. BlairM (2,286 comments) says:

    I cannot for the life of me see why anybody would be against a public register when the one here in Texas works so well.

    Not only can you search the database by address so you can see which offenders are living nearby, you can also see what they were convicted of. So there is no problem confusing a Stewart Murray Wilson with a mere Ron Mark (who was convicted of Stat Rape at 17).

    Anybody who is against a public register wants to protect these people. Simple as that.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  28. laworder (269 comments) says:

    DPF wrote

    I use both databases often. They are a very good tool. Criminal offending is not a private matter.

    Thank you for the positive feedback. They certainly are the product of a lot of hard work, and I am glad you find them useful, as many others do. Your point that criminal offending (at least of this sort) is not a private one is valid and important

    PAulL wrote


    In the US there are substantial problems with their register. For example, there’s a well publicised case of a guy who is on it for having sex with his girlfriend when he was 15 and she was 14. Funnily enough she’s not on it. The concept is OK, but as usual with government the actual execution is often very lacking.

    That’s a fair point, and I hope that a local register would address this issue. It could easily be solved by filtering out such low level offenders, and only listing those where the age difference is over some preset value.

    Ed Snack wrote

    I’d oppose it because it will be stuffed up. People will be put on it for trivial reasons and will be vilified. The UK and USA lists are ; and won’t easily be able to get off the list. The UK and US lists are rife with errors. Guaranteed stuff up.

    And how does it “encourage users to change their ways” ? You’re on the list and probably will never get off, regardless of why you were put on in the first place.

    The “stuff-ups” issue is easily resolved – rather than build a seperate register, construct a gateway directly into the Police/Justice criminal records system and apply appropriate filtering so that data such as street addresses, victim details etc cannot pass through to end users. (and make it read-only of course!) That way rather than double handling the data and creating the possibility of errors, utilise the existing data we already have and filter it.

    As for the matter of encouraging offenders to “change their ways” that is a) not going to happen and b) not the point of such a register anyway. This type of offending has a largely biological origin and so it is unlikely that a “change of ways” will ever occur regardless of what “treatment programmes” are applied

    For more on the biology of paedophilia and why “treatment programmes” are little better than snake oil, see this article
    http://www.safenz.org.nz/Articles/paedos.htm I strongly suggest following the links to reports, research papers if you have doubts as to the veracity of the biological causations of this offending

    Regards
    Peter J
    see http://www.sensiblesentencing.org.nz

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  29. laworder (269 comments) says:

    slightrighty wrote


    While I have no problem with a offenders database per se, I do have some issues with the Sensible Sentencing Trust publishing such a database. The reason is that there seems to be some debate behind the scenes as to who is listed and why. The state is bound by clearly defined rules. If it were to hold such a database, then, if convicted, you are on the database, no if’s or buts.

    Peter Ellis is not on the Trust’s register. Now if I were in charge of the register, I would not have him on it either, but from a legal standpoint, he should be. The point is, at some point the compiler of this register made the call that despite being accused and convicted of multiple counts of paedophilia, Ellis was not to be listed because of continuing doubts over his convictions. The fact is, however, that Peter Ellis is a convicted paedophile and sex offender, despite what you or I may think of the trial and case of the Civic Creche.

    For the record, I believe that Ellis is innocent, but if there is to be a register, it should be bound by convictions, not the gut feelings of the author. Such prejudices hurt both ways.

    This is a fair and valid objection – and yes there has been some debate re Ellis and one or two others. There are no simple or clearcut answers in such situations. Such decisions are not handled by me or my assistant but now go to Board level who make the final decision, although I do make recommendations regarding such cases. They also consult a couple of lawyers as well, so decisions to withold such offenders are made on occassion, but not lightly or without a great deal of consideration!

    This is why I favour the idea of having a direct but filtered gateway into the state’s criminal record system rather than the construction of a seperate register (such as the Trust one). My ultimate goal is to do myself out of this job :-)

    Regards
    Peter J
    see http://www.sensiblesentencing.org.nz

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  30. laworder (269 comments) says:

    Jack5 wrote

    Perhaps a register could include a separate section of overturned convictions, though this would not help the Christchurch civic creche/Ellis case victims while Justice Ministers look away. Also, just removing a name might not be enough – injustice as well as justice should be recorded.

    This is an excellent idea, and hopefully I will be able to incorporate this into a site/ database upgrade planned for later this year

    marcw wrote

    One of the problems we have, and that apparently helped Miki avoid detection, is the ease of changing your name in NZ, without any adequate background checks or verifications. Not even a check on the Ministry of Justice database.

    Perhaps tightening up this loophole would be a start.

    Absolutely agree, this has been a long standing issue, and comes back to the root cause of many of the problems within our justice system and wider society – serious repeat violent and sexual offenders having the same rights under law as the rest of us, e.g. the right to sue, privacy rights and as here, the right to change their name by deed poll.

    Regards
    Peter J
    see http://www.sensiblesentencing.org.nz

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  31. BlairM (2,286 comments) says:

    All the objections to a public register are sheer crap. If you have a conviction, you should be on it. If your conviction is overturned by the courts, you get taken off. What’s so hard about that? What’s so hard to understand?

    Innocent or not, Peter Ellis was convicted and should be on the register until the justice system determines otherwise or the Governor General grants mercy. Everybody knows who he is and that he is innocent anyway, so nobody is going to make the mistake of thinking he’s a real paedophile.

    A public register would have ALL the relevant information on it. You would see Ron Mark on it, but you would see his Stat Rape conviction from when he was 17 and figure out that he’s not a serious threat to anyone. You would see Stewart Murray Wilson on there, and figure out pretty quickly that you shouldn’t let your kids anywhere near him.

    This is an actual sex offenders’ register page – a map of the street where I live. As you can see, there are two offenders on my street, and there is a lot of detail on them. People know who they are, and leave them alone.

    Information is power, and we need to know who these people are, where they live, and what their crimes were. Frankly, I would rather risk the odd vigilante act on someone than risk more children getting molested. Why is that so hard for some people? Is there really a point where it becomes okay if more kids suffer so long as we don’t have lynch mobs in our streets?!

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  32. laworder (269 comments) says:

    Blair M I can see your point – again this is why I would far prefer a system based around public access into the state criminal records system rather than a privately run register.

    The points you make regarding the public being perfectly capable of discernment when trusted with information are well founded – interestingly all the examples of idiotic vigilantism that are commonly cited by opponents of public registers (such as paediatricians being targted in the UK) have occurred in jurisdictions where there is NO public access to offender data.

    It appears that one of the more effective countermeasures to combat vigilantism of this sort is to keep the public fully informed and trust them to use the information intelligently. In my view if you treat the general public as being capable of making intelligent decisions then in most cases that is what they do (but not always I’ll grant)

    That example of the Texas sex offenders register page you link to shows just how far behind we are here in NZ. If only….

    Regards
    Peter J
    see http://www.sensiblesentencing.org.nz

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.