Public Protection Orders – good intent, bad idea

Judith Collins announced the Public Safety (Public Protection Orders) Bill yesterday. It is intended to protect the public from potentially dangerous ex-criminals by keeping them in custody indefinitely at the end of their sentence.

Dangerous ex-prisoners targeted

Highly dangerous ex-prisoners who are being supervised in the community could be recalled to jail indefinitely in a law change due next year.

Authorities could apply to have child sex offenders and violent criminals kept in prison after finishing a finite sentence, or returned to prison if they had been released into the community under a bill introduced to Parliament yesterday.

Justice Minister Judith Collins said the legislation was likely to apply to a “very small number of extremely dangerous” people – between five and 12 offenders over 10 years.

I have serious concerns about this. The intent – to protect the public from ‘evil’ people – seems ok on the surface, but this would set a very bad precedent, and is contrary to basic principles of justice.

What does Labour have to say about this? Charles Chauvel:

“The Public Safety (Public Protection Orders) Bill, introduced today, was first promised by Judith Collins and John Key almost exactly one year ago, during the election campaign.

“Labour raised concerns five months ago around the fact the Government had not delivered on its election promise. We offered to discuss with Ms Collins the problems she said the Bill was designed to address, and also – in light of reports of divisions in Cabinet about the shape of the Bill – the intended design of the legislative solution.

“We heard nothing from Judith Collins until the introduction of the legislation in the House today. In the interim, one of the five to 12 offenders it specifically targets – Stewart Murray Wilson – has already been released.

“The delay of 12 months in introducing legislation first foreshadowed during the election campaign, allowing one of the targeted offenders to be released last month…

Chauvel is criticising National for not consulting – fair enough. But he’s complaining that it hasn’t been rushed through faster.

Kiwiblog’s legal contingent have other views commenting on this post:

F E Smith Next on the agenda, a District Police Superintendant will be able to apply to have persons believed to be likely to engage in criminal behaviour held in prison until they convince the High Court that they will not offend…

F E Smith In which case, why has this law been passed? To address cases where the offending wasn’t serious enough to warrant Preventative Detention, but where the prisoner is considered so dangerous as to warrant continued detention? Or is the very high bar to be read to a very low threshold?

GPT1  This actually proposes to lock people up not for criminal acts done but the possibility of criminal activity in the future. What is the next step? Pre-investigation detention just in case someone might be a criminal in the future?

Even if there is no next step this bill seems like it intends well, but would set a very bad precedent for locking people up in case they might commit a crime. There are a lot of criminals who might fit that category.

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