Victims seek relief from hearing pain

Regular parole hearings are traumatic - victim

SHANE COWLISHAW
Last updated 05:00 06/03/2014
Sarah Nathan
CAMERON BURNELL/ Fairfax NZ

SPEAKING UP: Assault victim Sarah Nathan outside Parliament after addressing the law and order select committee about her views on the parole system. The Hawke’s Bay mum was viciously beaten by Jeremy David Jones in 2011 after an argument at a barbecue.

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Every time she attends a parole hearing, Sarah Nathan relives the time she almost died at the hands of her former partner.

The Hawke's Bay mother was viciously beaten by Jeremy David Jones in 2011 after an argument spiralled out of control while they attended a barbecue.

Punched, kicked and struck on the head with a whiskey decanter, Ms Nathan spent a week in hospital after suffering a broken nose, severe bruising, a burst eardrum and cuts to her scalp that needed 16 staples.

Jones, who was described by a judge as a danger to women, was sentenced to five years' jail for the attack, which came only two weeks after he was freed from prison for a previous assault.

Yesterday Ms Nathan flew to Wellington with her mother, Marlene, and Sensible Sentencing Trust spokesman Garth McVicar to give a submission on the Parole Amendment Bill.

The bill proposes to reduce the number of parole hearings by doubling the minimum time between hearings from one year to two.

Ms Nathan told the law and order select committee considering the bill that, when she attended Jones' second hearing in December, the Parole Board did not have a grasp on the background of his offending.

It had no record of the five protection orders issued against him, and did not have a copy of the sentencing notes, which Ms Nathan and the trust had sourced from the court.

If she had not shown up with the information, she believes Jones could have been released.

Having to go through regular parole hearings was traumatic for victims, and she urged the committee to make two years the minimum period between hearings, rather than the maximum.

"As a victim, each time he appears it's traumatic for me and my family. My son saw the first attack and he has to relive it every time I go through it."

Parole Board spokeswoman Justine Turner confirmed the sentencing notes were not available at Jones' December hearing, but declined to comment on why.

Leigh Woodman, whose daughter was murdered and sexually violated in Wellington in 1997 by Nicholas Hawker, also spoke at the hearing.

Having been to several parole hearings for Hawker, she believed the system was biased towards offenders. Even if victims did not attend the hearings, simply knowing an offender might be freed was a horrible process, and she had witnessed people vomit at the thought.

But several submitters spoke against extending the length of time between parole hearings, arguing it would be a costly move.

Rethinking Crime and Punishment spokesman Kim Workman said extending the time would inevitably lead to prisoners spending more time than necessary in jail, at a great cost to the Government.

Representatives from the Community Law Centre agreed, saying the extended timeframe meant it would be more difficult to check that prisoners were receiving and completing the appropriate rehabilitation programmes.

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- The Dominion Post

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