Saturday, May 31, 2008

Repeat Sex Offender Strikes Again

One of New Zealand's worst sex offenders has been charged with indecently assaulting a 95-year-old woman - months after the Parole Board rejected calls to put him back behind bars, saying he posed no risk to the community.

The man, who is in his 60s, has spent more than half his life in prison after a series of attacks on young girls.

He was released more than 20 years ago, but re-offended within days.

Two years ago, he was released again, to live in a house near a school and a resthome.

Late last year, police and the Corrections Department appealed to have him recalled, fearing he would strike again. They said the man had been seen watching children as they walked to and from school.

But the Parole Board refused to recall him saying his case was considered a "highly successful release."

Now, six months later, police say the man sneaked into the Auckland resthome - which backs on to his house - and indecently assaulted an elderly woman.

It is understood the alleged offending took place less than a month after the man's 24-hour supervision - a condition of his parole - stopped without the board's knowledge.

The man was arrested this week and appeared in Auckland District Court yesterday. He is now in custody charged with indecent assault and entering the resthome with intent to commit a crime.

A Parole Board spokeswoman said she could not comment as the case was before the courts.

Police have also said they are unable to comment.

National Party law and order spokesman Simon Power said he was becoming increasingly concerned by the Government's shaping of the criminal justice system in a way that put reducing prison numbers before the safety of the community.

"The number one priority in any criminal justice system should be the safety of the public."

Sensible Sentencing Trust spokesman Garth McVicar said the case was another example of how the Parole Board system had "passed its use-by date".

"It's not capable of doing the job and more and more cases are proving that."

Mr McVicar said part of the problem was the growing pressure to release people from overcrowded prisons.

He believed it was time the board was abolished and decisions about release left to the judges who sentenced offenders.

The resthome's chief operating officer, who can't be named to protect the identify of the home and victim, said the resident was coping "reasonably well".

A spokeswoman for Police Minster Annette King said the minister would not be commenting on the case.

"Fundamentally, the Parole Board is a statutory independent body and so it should speak for itself on that subject."

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