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Police: Child sex offender register delivery pushing capacity

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Police currently lack capacity to maintain the child sex offender register to best practice standards. Photo / File

Overburdened police are struggling to deliver an effective child sex offender register.

A proactively released Cabinet paper said there was “still work to be done” to make sure the register was working as intended.

Between October 2019, when an evaluation of the first three years of the register was concluded, and June last year, there was a 16 per cent total increase of people on the register, from 2687 to 3114, the Cabinet paper said.

There was a 34 per cent rise in people on the register being monitored in the community, to 1846.

Of those, 67 per cent were monitored by police and the rest by the Department of Corrections.

The figure was 88 per cent higher than had been projected and the register was expected to grow further, as 68 per cent of those on it would stay on it for life.

Between 2017 and 2020, prosecutions under the Child Protection (Child Sex Offender Government Agency Registration) Act 2016 fell from 72 per cent to 51 per cent “due to case managers placing greater focus on working with offenders to manage the causes of non-compliance wherever possible”.

The vast majority of prosecutions were for failing to comply with reporting obligations rather than providing false or misleading information, and a “significant proportion” resulted in imprisonment, the paper states.

Resourcing was highlighted as a concern for the country’s 52 police district case managers, who struggled to keep pace with administrative work and were concerned their ability to engage with offenders to reduce offending was increasingly limited.

Case management practices also varied, with inconsistencies due to staffing issues, differing approaches and “variable district buy-in”.

Work was needed across both police and Corrections to address the “current low completion rate of risk assessments” and to ensure they were completed to best-practice standards.

Better information-sharing between agencies was called for and avenues for future legislative change were suggested but withheld under confidentiality of advice provisions.

Better evaluation of the register was needed over a longer period and an indicative report would likely be provided in 2027.

Concerns were also flagged about the “significant and disproportionate” number of people coded as Maori on the register, and privacy requirements.

The undated report was prepared in the latter half of last year.

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