Wanganui District Council has lost its challenge to having serial sex offender Stewart Murray Wilson released to its community.
Wilson, 65, a serial sex offender known as the Beast of Blenheim, was convicted on 22 sex charges against women and children between 1971 and 1994. Having served his sentence, he must be released from prison by September 1 after 21 years behind bars.
He has already been moved to Wanganui Prison in readiness for his release in Whanganui.
The 17 conditions of Wilson's release were being challenged in the High Court at Wellington today by his lawyer and the Wanganui District Council.
Whanganui Mayor Annette Main said she was disappointed with the result.
"We have to make sure that our community is able to have the information [from Corrections] they weren't able to get before … that's why we took this case.
"We have to begin again to actually start making sure that these conditions they've put in place actually work."
She admitted there was little else to do to stop Wilson's move to Whanganui.
"We know that every community in New Zealand would have done the same … nobody wants to see this man in their backyard.
"We've given it our best shot and I think we've sent a pretty clear message that these things need to be handled in different ways.
Justice Ron Young was told that Wilson wanted internet access, to be able to leave Whanganui District and to drive a car but not carry passengers.
However Justice Young said he saw good reason for some of the release conditions.
With Wilson's history of offending involving hitch-hikers he had picked up and meeting vulnerable women via lonely-hearts newspaper advertisements, some of the restrictions seemed reasonable, the judge said.
Wilson's lawyer Andrew McKenzie told the court the Parole Board-imposed release conditions were effectively house arrest and Wilson was better off in prison where he at least had about 40 other people to talk to.
The board said Wilson's whereabouts were to be electronically monitored by GPS, that he was not to leave the Whanganui District, to have any internet-capable electronic device, or to have or drive a car.
The Wanganui District Council did not want him in the area in any event. He was due to be released to a building "outside the wire" on Whanganui Prison grounds but that building was not yet in place.
Also, a reintegration programme had been imposed on top of the board conditions so that the board said he should be electronically monitored.
The judge this afternoon said that the "reintegration programme" that Corrections Department wanted to impose on top of the release conditions that the Parole Board set, was not a reintegration plan at all.
There may be an urgent Parole Board hearing for the board to say whether the reintegration plan was what it had in mind when it told Wilson he had to engage in such a programme.
While the board had said Wilson was to be electronically monitored by GPS, the reintegration programme said he had to be accompanied by two "minders" wherever he went.
Unless Corrections could give an undertaking that two people would be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, then it was a restriction, not a reintegration measure, Justice Ron Young said.
The reintegration programme also included other conditions on Wilson's conduct.
The Wanganui district council passed a bylaw banning gang insignia from its urban area in 2009, but it was ruled invalid by the High Court last year because the "blanket ban" went too far.
A rejigged version, which is in the process of being finalised, outlaws patches in the district's main parks, sports grounds and shopping areas.
Councillor Michael Laws said he had sought legal opinion that said the council could do the same to Wilson.
If today's judicial review of the Parole Board decision did not go the council's way, Laws said the trespass idea would be floated at a special meeting of council tomorrow.
There were other options "around public protest and civil disobedience" that the Whanganui community could employ if necessary, Laws said. "But I don't want to get into that at the moment."
He did not condone vigilante justice, but would not be surprised if the Whanganui public took matters into their own hands, especially in light of an incident on Friday when the house of a convicted sex offender in Turangi was firebombed.
"You almost force communities into that kind of illegal action if you impose upon them individuals that they know are a threat to them," Laws said.
"It's a perfectly understandable reaction when the legal authorities of the land won't and can't protect the community."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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