OPINION: In an ideal world, Stewart Murray Wilson would be kept in prison for the rest of his life.
Unfortunately, the law as it stands means Wilson, a vicious serial sex offender dubbed the Beast of Blenheim, must be freed on September 1 at the absolute latest, despite fears he will seek new victims as soon as he gets a chance.
The best that can therefore be done to keep the community safe from such an undoubtedly dangerous man is to place strict controls on him for as long as possible after he is released. The conditions imposed by the Parole Board this week - the most stringent placed so far on a released prisoner - meet that objective.
Wilson will be 78 before he is completely free from the monitoring regimes he will be subjected to for the next 13 years. For the first three years of that, he will be free in name only, on parole and at risk of being recalled to prison should he breach any of his 17 conditions of release.
He will be required to live in an old state house, to be relocated to the grounds of Whanganui Prison, where he will be subjected to GPS tracking and within easy reach of guards should he attempt to abscond. He will also be banned from having females at the house without prior approval, forbidden from associating with anyone aged under 16 without supervision and prohibited from owning or driving a vehicle. Should he be given permission to leave the house, he must be accompanied by two members of his reintegration team and he will be banned from leaving the Whanganui district under any circumstances.
Once his formal three-year parole period is up, Wilson will be subjected to a 10-year extended supervision order. Though the conditions he will face under that have yet to be determined, it would be remarkable if they did not include similar residential, tracking and non-association orders to ensure the community's safety.
Many people in the Whanganui area will be understandably uneasy that such a dangerous man as Wilson is to be released to live in such close proximity to their community. However, the reality is he has to live somewhere, and so prolific was his offending that Whanganui is the only district in New Zealand that has a rural jail that is not near any of his more than 30 registered victims.
Having decided that is where he should be placed, it is now incumbent on the authorities to ensure he is properly monitored, and that the slightest breach of his release conditions sees him recalled to jail. Having ensured the widespread publication of his location, it is also incumbent on them to ensure his safety.
In the meantime, Justice Minister Judith Collins' bill to allow the worst sexual predators to be kept in jail indefinitely cannot come soon enough. The law change would allow a High Court judge to issue public protection orders that would require the most dangerous offenders to be kept behind bars after their final release date, most likely in flats located inside prison fences.
The bill is expected before Parliament this year. The Government estimates it would apply to between five and 12 offenders in a 10-year period. Were it law today, one of them would certainly be Stewart Murray Wilson
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