A New Zealand charity, the leader of which made a submission to parliament attempting to link equal marriage with rising crime rates has released a statement distancing itself from his comments.

Garth McVicar, the head of the Sensible Sentencing Trust, made a submission to the select committee considering equal marriage, suggesting that the act of legalising same-sex marriage would break down the basic morals of society, and would bring more harm than good.

In a statement on the charity’s website, Ruth Money, appeared to be attempting to distance the group from Mr McVicar’s comments.

“The Sensible Sentencing Trust wishes to clarify that the recent submission regarding the Marriage [Definition of Marriage] Amendment Bill was made by Garth McVicar in a personal capacity and does not represent the view of the Sensible Sentencing Trust, or the wide range of views our members will no doubt have on the issue,” it read. 

In his submission to the select committee, Garth McVicar wrote: “The marriage amendment bill will not benefit society at all and will ultimately have detremetal [sic] effect on crime at all levels.”

“Furthermore, the bill represents a further decay and erosion of the traditional family that society has been founded on,” he wrote.

One member of the select committee reviewing submissions, however, described the claims as “prejudiced” and “nonsensical”.

Green MP Kevin Hague said that Mr McVicar’s submission was the only one he had read which attempted to make a direct link between equal marriage and crime.

Mr Hague said: “Although it echoes a number of submissions that say marriage has been the same way for a long time and that if you tamper with it there will be lots of unforeseen circumstances.”

He continued that there was no basis for the argument, and that there was no evidence that equal marriage would have a detrimental effect on society, or lead to increased crime rates.

“I suspect that underlying this submission is a prejudice against gay people. If you break the argument down, it is manifestly nonsensical,” he said.

The New Zealand Marriage Amendment Bill, which would legalise equal marriage, passed its first reading on 22 August, with a majority of 80 votes to 40 in parliament in support of the change.

A select committee is now reviewing the bill, which would normally be over a period of around six months. After that process, it will make a decision on whether or not to recommend it be passed.

Last week, the head of an evangelical church in Auckland was discovered attempting to rig a cabinet minister’s poll on a pending equal marriage bill.