It was sexual predator Stewart Murray Wilson's birthday yesterday, but he wasn't gifted the right to cruise the streets of Whanganui on a scooter.
The Parole Board did decide he can continue to live rent-free after it turned down a request from the Corrections Department that would have forced him to pay about $100 a week to live on prison land.
Accompanied by lawyer Andrew McKenzie, Mr Wilson appeared before the board yesterday morning for a progress hearing wearing an over-sized suit and a pair of worn skate shoes with orange soles.
Mr McKenzie asked to have rules on Mr Wilson's release clarified and a condition hindering his ability to drive relaxed.
Mr Wilson, formerly of Blenheim, was jailed for 21 years in 1996 after being convicted on 22 sex charges against women and children between 1971 and 1994. He was freed on August 29 into a self-care unit on Whanganui Prison land, but has since been moved to a relocated home nearby.
During the hearing yesterday, Community Probation lower north operations manager Matire Kupenga-Wanoa said Mr Wilson had complied with the terms of his release, but said they believed "his risk remains high".
Wilson's reintegration "may seem slow", but it would take time to ensure it was done properly, she said. It would be premature to relax any of Mr Wilson's conditions.
Mr McKenzie argued Mr Wilson's reintegration was just another form of detention, with no end in sight, and the rules surrounding his release remained unclear, he said.
"Corrections writes and then rewrites [the rules] and doesn't tell anyone."
Mr Wilson had not been able to go shopping for clothes since he was released because Corrections considered it dangerous for anyone using changing rooms in any stores he visited, Mr McKenzie said.
"What is wrong with this man going to buy some clothes after 20 years in prison?" he said.
He also argued the terms of Mr Wilson's release meant he was isolated and hindered his reintegration. He had been issued a driver's licence since his release and should be able to take a car or scooter into town without passengers.
Ms Kupenga-Wanoa said Mr Wilson's activities had to be planned in advance so the dangers to himself and the rest of the public could be assessed. Many shops in Whanganui would not allow Mr Wilson inside.
Mr Wilson has so far refused to pay rent after a judge at a previous Parole Board hearing ruled he didn't have to.
Ms Kupenga-Wanoa argued it was important as a member of the community that he made a contribution. The $100 a week Corrections were asking for included $87 rent and $13 for power, she said.
Mr McKenzie said Mr Wilson had not been offered a tenancy agreement and Corrections was "essentially asking to take $100, but not give him the rights of a tenant".
He also asked for a formal valuation of what living on prison land should cost.
Mr Wilson told the board he was upset he had not been allowed to go to midnight mass.
"My faith is a big thing and I missed out on it for a long time," he said.
Justice Frater said the board would not add a condition forcing Mr Wilson to pay rent, but added that he should work with Corrections to reach an agreement.
"We would hope that there could be negotiations through a probation officer to reach an agreement that's satisfactory to both parties."
The board declined to alter the condition regarding Mr Wilson's access to a motor vehicle.
A challenge to the strict terms of Mr Wilson's release and a 10-year supervision order will be heard in the Court of Appeal in April next year. His next progress hearing is scheduled for March.
- The Marlborough Express
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