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Marc My Words


Marc My Words

By Marc Alexander MP

Where's the Rule Book for the Parole Board game?

Well, at long last we have the Parole Board admitting that up to 150 of its decisions for some of New Zealand's worst criminals were made illegally! Most of us suspected the soundness of some of the decisions which were dubious, to put it charitably - and to have one of the Board's spokespeople challenge their legitimacy must surely be worth an inquiry.

It seems that the fracas is over whether an adviser (David Chaplow, the Health Ministry Health Director) had jeopardised some decisions by overstepping his role and taking part in the actual deliberations as if he was a Board member.

Given that 86% of all offenders are reconvicted within five years (most are released through parole provisions), the new difficulties highlighted by the Board spokesman will not do much to bolster public confidence in the parole process. Take sex offender and paedophile Peter Liddell. He already had 17 convictions for having victimised boys for more than 20 years as a social worker at Middlemore Hospital and guidance counsellor at Kings College, before he was released on parole in 1998, having served a paltry four years of a seven year (!) sentence. He has demonstrated his utter contempt for his victims, the rule of law and the rights of civil society, and he has betrayed the unwarranted charity that the parole process extended to him, by pleading guilty to yet another sexual violation (this time of a 15 year old boy). It is worrying enough that he was given parole; but that pred

More worrying however, is that it is not known if the Parole Board's review of the files has resulted in offenders being released from, or recalled to, prison. The nub of it all is this; we just don't know whether convicted prisoners should have come or gone!

Worse still - it might be that if illegalities could be established those convicted offenders affected could be eligible for compensation. It is indeed ironical that these Parole Board shenanigans could end up making crime pay! How will our law-abiding taxpayers feel about that - not to mention the victims of these criminals?

These Board members are appointed on the recommendation of the Attorney General, Margaret Wilson. And what does she say? Her response was, "It's an operational matter for the Parole Board to deal with". Hardly the take-charge, take-responsibility answer we should expect, but an evasive and underwhelming abrogation of responsibility.

Yet again, this response has undermined the integrity and confidence of that embattled institution, the Parole Board. Quite frankly, it's hard to take seriously an institution whose rationale is to undermine and cut short the sentences handed down by the Courts. It diminishes the denunciatory power of sentences; passes judgements contrary to much public expectation; and is now challenged by one of its own on the legality of some of its decisions.

It's not before time to put the failed experiment of Parole back into the closet of failed ideas.we are now wiser and we should move on.


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