Rapist may be jailed for life

JIMMY ELLINGHAM
Last updated 12:00 25/01/2013

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Support groups for victims of violent crime have welcomed the decision to consider sentencing a convicted rapist to preventive detention.

Linton mechanic Tony Russell Wells, 33, was last year found guilty by a jury of raping and sexually violating a woman in March 2003.

He is in custody and was going to be sentenced next month in the Palmerston North District Court.

But now that has been put back a month to allow him to be considered for preventive detention.

It can be imposed on serious sexual and violent offenders and means they can be jailed indefinitely. Since 1982-1983, 312 people have received such a sentence.

Palmerston North Women's Refuge manager Ang Jury said such a punishment was a "great option".

"I imagine it would be entirely appropriate for somebody who appears to be unwilling to address their issues," Dr Jury said.

"Some people are just simply predatory."

Preventive detention was a good option to keep people safe, she said.

"I think it's a really useful tool for the judiciary because they often are hamstrung by some of the maximum sentences and at least this one gives them an opportunity to keep people in a safe place."

Abuse and Rape Crisis Support Manawatu manager Ann Kent agreed with Dr Jury.

"I think the community at large appreciates sentences like preventive detention being applied so that they feel safe and they feel something has been done when somebody has a repeated history of such predatory behaviour."

Even if Wells does not get preventive detention he still faces a maximum of 20 years in jail on the rape charge.

One night in March 2003 he picked up a middle-aged woman who needed a ride home from town.

Wells offered her his mother's place to stay but instead drove her to an isolated road near the Palmerston North Airport.

He then raped and violated her and said older women would do anything to have sex with a younger man.

DNA swabs taken from the woman and fingerprints found on a condom and condom wrapper linked Wells to the scene.

The trial jury acquitted him of two counts of sexually violating another woman in 2006.

He had another conviction for sexual violation relating to a 2007 incident, for which he was jailed for three years and nine months.

A November 2011 Parole Board report said that after his release from jail, Wells was, for various reasons, unable to attend a rehabilitative programme.

"The long and the short is that he is feeling very frustrated because he has not been able to get any treatment," Judge Carolyn Henwood wrote.

Another report from March 2011 says after his release, Wells lived with his mother and partner without trouble. He was said to be well-behaved in prison.

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- Manawatu Standard

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