Bill to give Police monitoring powers of returnees

Returning prisoners and offenders from overseas will soon come under the radar of the Ministry of Police, if the Returning Offenders Bill 2019 is passed by the Parliament. 

The bill was tabled in Parliament last month and seeks to provide for the management and exchange of information on returning offenders and returning prisoners. 

It also gives the Ministry of Police monitoring powers of returnees and access to information such as his or her criminal history. Currently there is no legislation governing returning offenders or returning prisoners of Samoan citizenship from Australia, New Zealand or even the United States. 

Instead the Samoa Returnees Trust assists the deportees to assimilate back into Samoan society. However, at least two returnees have re-offended. More than 200 returnees are under the trust with three of them females. 

Police Commissioner, Fuiavailiili Egon Keil said the bill will give Police “a bit more monitoring power around deportees coming in” and will be able to track them. 

We all know these deportees returned to Samoa, these countries don’t want them because they committed violent crimes, sexual assault and some serious crimes,” Fuiavailiili said in a recent interview. 

“We want to make sure when they do come here, we hope they change their ways and if they do come we don’t want them to reoffend. 

“(We are) Looking at the view of public and community safety, so try get as much information from them as possible and put some rules around them when in Samoa for a little while to ensure your kids and everybody’s kids and families are safe from these individuals.”

Fuiavailiili stressed it is always their hope the returnees have mended their ways and can move forward with their lives but information they receive confirm that some of them do reoffend. 

“At that point that is why this law is here and hopefully come into effect so we can do our job as law enforcers to protect our community.” 

Under the proposed law, a returning offender is a person convicted in an overseas jurisdiction for an offence that is punishable by an imprisonment term in Samoa. Consultation for the bill is underway. 

The definition of a returning prisoner is someone who has been released or deported directly from an overseas prison and has been sentenced in respect of that conviction. 

 The returning offender is liable to be deported or removed while on parole conditions and has returned to Samoa. 

Section 6 (2) of the bill a police officer must request information such as proof they are a Samoan citizen, whether they are still in prison on parole or have completed serving their sentence overseas and crime which the returning offender was convicted. 

Other information needed from them include a medical condition or contagious disease a returning offender may have, proof the returning offender has family in Samoa, and that his or her family accepts responsibility for the returning offender. 

Their fingerprints, palm prints or footprints, biographical details and photograph is also required from them.  

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