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First reading for offender identity bill

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 13/09/2016

A bill designed to ensure prisoners can't slip out the country the way Phillip John Smith did has passed its first reading in parliament.

The convicted murderer acquired a passport under his birth name Traynor and was on temporary release when he flew to Rio de Janeiro in November 2014.

He was captured and returned, but the way he had escaped sent shock waves through the system.

The Enhancing Identity Verification and Border Processes Legislation Bill was the result of an independent inquiry, and it passed its first reading by 109 votes to 14 on Tuesday.

Only the Greens opposed it.

"It makes sure offenders and other high-risk individuals cannot leave New Zealand without permission, or hide who they are through the use of multiple aliases," Justice Minister Amy Adams said.

"It strengthens our systems that are used to identify offenders by enabling them to be based on unalterable information like fingerprints and facial recognition, rather than name-based records."

New measures in the bill include:

* Authorisation to disclose identity information between justice, border and other agencies to identify high-risk individuals

* The ability for specified justice and other agencies to access key identity information such as the births, deaths and marriages database

* Improved powers to prevent certain offenders and mental health patients, ordered by the court to remain in a secure facility, from leaving New Zealand without permission.

The bill has been sent to a select committee for public submissions.

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