The Child Sex Offender Register is a tool to help with the protection of children and the prevention of reoffending by known child sex offenders.
About the Child Sex Offender Register
A Child Sex Offender Register has recently been established under new legislation, the Child Protection (Child Sex Offender Government Agency Registration) Act 2016, which was enacted on 14 September 2016. The register commenced operation on 14 October 2016.
The register is a record of a range of up to date personal information about registered child sex offenders living in the community. It is a tool to help Police and Corrections staff with the monitoring of people who have offended in the past, with the aim of preventing re-offending and keeping children safe.
Sexual offending against children
Sexual offending against children causes significant and long lasting harm to victims, their families, and the community.
People who commit sexual offences against children live in all communities and are of no single age, gender, ethnicity, or position in society. In most cases, the people who commit sexual crimes against children are not strangers to their victims – research has shown that in around 90 percent of child sex abuse cases the perpetrator is known to the child or family.
It is important to remember that a significant proportion of convicted child sex offenders do not reoffend once they are released from prison, but there are some that do.
Releasing people from prison
Almost every person sent to prison will one day leave. Before a child sex offender is released from prison, careful planning is undertaken to reduce the likelihood of reoffending. Many offenders are released with special conditions or on extended supervision orders, which provide varying levels of protection to the community.
When a registered offender leaves prison they are required to start reporting their personal information to the register, and to continue to report it until the end of their registration period. This applies to those people who are subject to conditions or extended supervision orders, as well as those who are living freely in the community without conditions.
Corrections probation officers and Police case managers work with these people to develop a plan for their full reintegration back into the community, with the aim of supporting them to maintain a low-risk lifestyle and protecting the community where appropriate.
More information on how decisions are made about releasing people from prison is available on the Department of Corrections website.
Keeping children safe
In the interests of child safety, those people who have been convicted of child sex offences and are now living back in the community, are monitored by authorities. In the past there was very limited information available to authorities on where these people were living and what was happening in their lives that might trigger reoffending. That’s why the Child Sex Offender Register was introduced.
How the register works
When people on the register come out of prison, they have to report a range of personal details to the register – for example their address, their motor vehicle details, details of children living in their household, internet provider details, any websites they administer. AND they have to notify Police of any changes of these details, within 72 hours (3 days) of the change, and at least 48 hours (2 days) prior to travel or change of address. They also have to report information annually.
A person stays on the register for either 8 years, 15 years or for life depending on the severity of the offence they committed and the sentence they received.
* A list of qualifying offences is available on the CSO Register Factsheet (PDF 357KB)
How the information is used
The information on the registered person is used to paint a picture of what is happening in the life of that person. Changes in personal circumstances of an offender can be a trigger for an escalation in their risk of re-offending.
Information received about an offender is assessed by their Police case manager (and their probation officer if the person is subject to release conditions or an extended supervision order) and by specialist staff working in the Child Sex Offender Registry. They assess what effect that change in the person’s circumstances has on their risk of re-offending, and whether preventative action needs to take place to try and prevent an opportunity for re-offending.
Most people who have been convicted of child sex offences, and have completed their sentence, do not reoffend. Rehabilitation and support programmes, supportive family and social networks, and pro-active management of risk factors all contribute to these people living an offence-free life. Others need more active support and intervention to reduce their risk of reoffending, keep opportunity out of their way and keep children safe.
No public access to the information
The public does not have access to the information held on the register. Only authorised Police and Corrections staff involved in monitoring child sex offenders have direct access to it.
Getting information about an individual offender
The Privacy Act and Official Information Act protect everyone’s right to a certain level of privacy and prohibit the release of certain information about individuals, including people convicted of an offence.
Police and Corrections cannot release information about a registered person unless it is assessed that there is a need to do so to protect a child or children from a significant threat. In these situations, details about the registered offender can be disclosed to the relevant people involved with the children eg parents, schools, and care-givers. Guidance can then be given on how to best keep children safe.
Where information about someone on the register is released, there are strict disclosure protocols that have to be adhered to. And there are penalties if those protocols are not adhered to and if people pass on that information.
Information shared between agencies
Information about people on the register can be shared with specific agencies (Ministry of Social Development, Housing New Zealand, Department of Internal Affairs and Customs), in the interest of public safety. These agencies can also provide information on the registered person to Police and Corrections. There are strict disclosure protocols around sharing information.
What can you do?
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, or if you have concerns about someone acting suspiciously, call the Police on 111.
If you have concerns about the safety of a child or a young person, but it’s not an emergency, you can call your local Police station or Oranga Tamariki–Ministry for Children on 0508 FAMILY (0508 326 459) for advice. If you’re not sure whether it’s an emergency or not, call 111.
Information can be provided anonymously to Police via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.