Should he have been released?
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The families of two young women murdered by Paul Russell Wilson have slammed an independent review of the Parole Board’s decision to release him from prison, saying it is an insult to their intelligence.
The review, by Professor Devon Polaschek, found it was reasonable for the Board to release Wilson and that there were no lessons it could learn from the tragedy.
Wilson killed his former girlfriend Kimi Schroder in 1994 and served 16 years in prison. He was released on parole in 2011 and seven years later murdered Nicole Tuxford - a woman he worked with and whose affection he was seeking - in a similar manner.
The Schroder family, from Hokitika, had attended five Parole Board hearings starting in 2007 to protest vehemently against releasing Wilson. After learning he had murdered Nicole Tuxford, Kimi Schroder’s father, Gary, committed suicide.
Jenny Keogan, a close friend of Gary Schroder and spokesperson for the family, told Newsroom that the review was “an absolute insult”, and the Parole Board “had blood on its hands".
“Wilson showed ‘no remorse’ at the initial murder trial and no remorse throughout his 16 years in jail," she said.
“Finally in December 2010 when he knows he has a high probability of release he tells them he was deeply sorry, of course he did.
“Here is a man who was claiming right up to 2008 that he had consensual sex with Kimi before he murdered her ... even when he admitted that he had raped her the Parole Board was concerned that he had simply 'changed his language' and not conveyed any real depth of feeling or change in the way he was thinking about what he had done.”
In its 2007 decision to deny Wilson parole, the Board had said: “We are concerned at what seems to have been numerous interventions in his case without focusing on the aspects of the offence he committed. For us, the beginning of any journey to release is an honest recollection by him of what he did and some insight into why he did it at the time.
“It seems to us that he is still denying and minimising large parts of that. His insistence that sexual intercourse with his victim was consensual is part of that. In the circumstances of him taking a knife into the flat, binding the flatmate, grabbing the knife and cutting her hands, to then talk about consensual sex, is clearly in the circumstances arrant nonsense of a worrying kind.”
In June 2010, the Board still had serious concerns about Wilson. It again declined parole despite psychological reports saying Wilson had made considerable gains in treatment and was genuinely contrite for his offending.
“We must say that we did not observe that improvement in our interview with him. He said that he turns to jelly prior to the board meetings. Whatever the reason, he was unable to answer even relatively simple questions and gave extremely limited and inadequate responses.”
Six months later in December 2010, the Board took a different position after “they had a much more constructive dialogue with Mr Wilson this time than we had at the last hearing".
"He assured us that he is deeply sorry for what he did and the pain that he caused.”
"We told them time and time again this would be a mistake. We absolutely knew he would kill again, and he did."
Wilson had also been accepted into the Salisbury Street Foundation, a residential care centre in Christchurch for hardened criminals.
The centre, established by a former inmate, has a policy of zero tolerance for violence and residents have all been through violence-prevention programmes in prison. They are supervised on a 24-hour basis.
It its December 2010 report, the Board noted that the programme run by Salisbury was “intensive” and that the participants took part in “daily therapeutic sessions”.
It anticipated that Wilson would be there for at least a year and “he will find it very challenging”.
In deciding to grant him parole, the Board said: “We are satisfied that Mr Wilson is aware of his high-risk situations and has appropriate strategies to address them ... we are satisfied that Mr Wilson will not pose an undue risk to the safety of the community, or any members of it if he is released.”
Wilson left prison on January 17, 2011.
The Parole Board monitored Wilson for a year and at a post-release hearing after six months, the information from those handling him was positive.
In her review of the board’s decision to release Wilson, Dr Polaschek placed weight on New Zealand data provided by Corrections showing the likelihood of a person convicted of murdering their partner and then being convicted again for a similar murder is about 0.4 percent.
She found that the Board took an overall cautious approach to granting parole, and proper process was followed.
The families of the victims say the review was part of an “arse-covering exercise by the Parole Board”.
“As far as all those psychologists who were commissioned and writing recommendations to the Parole Board, they need to look seriously at who these professionals actually are. They got it so wrong."
In a statement to Newsroom, Jenny Keogan and Kimi Schroder’s mother Nancy said:
“The terms of reference of this review were far too narrow. We demand that a full wide-ranging inquiry is done with both the NZ Parole Board and Dept of corrections. There were so many red flags that were so obvious during the times Wilson appeared in front of the Board that it is scarcely believable that he could be let out. We told them time and time again this would be a mistake. We absolutely knew he would kill again, and he did."
The mother of Nicole Tuxford, Cherie Gillatt, also criticised the scope of the review and said someone needed to look at the role of the prison psychologists. Wilson had nearly 300 assessments or counselling sessions while he was in jail.
“As far as all those psychologists who were commissioned and writing recommendations to the Parole Board, they need to look seriously at who these professionals actually are. They got it so wrong. I hope those professionals can't sleep at night knowing they considered Wilson to be low-risk when he was released and he murdered my daughter. Perhaps they should try walking in my shoes for a while.”
The new head of the Parole Board, Sir Ron Young, said he accepted the families believed “we did get it wrong” but that “hindsight” could not be applied to the decision and the report had been done by an independent expert.
But Young said he didn't agree with Polaschek’s conclusion that there were no lessons to be learned.
In an interview with Newsroom, he said he had talked to the justice advisory group about extending the Parole Board's monitoring of serious criminals. Currently, the monitoring finishes one year after the prisoner's release and Young said he thought that was too short.
He said he also planned to talk with police following Wilson’s sentencing today.
Not long before he murdered Nicole Tuxford, Wilson was pulled over at a police alcohol checkpoint and was found to be over the limit. He also had two knives in his car.
Police secured these knives in the vehicle’s boot and retained the keys. Wilson caught a taxi from the checkpoint to Tuxford’s house and lay in wait for her overnight.
Sir Ron Young told Newsroom that because Wilson was over the blood/alcohol limit his actions were “lawless” and there may’ve been an opportunity to apply to have him immediately recalled to prison.
Police have subsequently responded to this suggestion in a statement to Newsroom.
“We have previously stated that (Wilson) was not in breach of his parole conditions when he was stopped at the checkpoint. In these circumstances the excessive blood/alcohol offence would have been notified to Probation Services, however it was not in itself sufficient to contact Probation that night, nor was there any other threshold to trigger that action. We reiterate that these were experienced staff who processed (Wilson) at the checkpoint, he was calm and cooperative and they could not predict his intentions after he left. We have found no failing in what they did and they have been deeply affected by what later occurred.
Regardless, Cherie Gillatt says: "I mean, he should never have been let out of jail in the first place, but the checkpoint situation as well ... it's just broken us. As far as we are concerned, it's a monumental multi-system stuff-up and everyone has played a part."
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