No scooter for Beast of Blenheim
It might be sexual predator Stewart Murray Wilson's birthday, but he hasn't been gifted the right to cruise the streets of Whanganui on a scooter.
He can, however, continue to live rent free after the Parole Board 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 his lawyer, Andrew McKenzie, Wilson appeared before the board for a progress hearing this morning wearing an over-sized suit and a pair of worn skate shoes with orange soles.
Mr McKenzie sought to have rules around Mr Wilson's release clarified and a condition hindering his ability to drive relaxed.
The Corrections Department asked for the terms of his release to remain the same, other than the addition of a condition forcing the sex offender to pay rent.
During the hearing, Community Probation lower north operations manager Matire Kupenga-Wanoa said Mr Wilson had complied with the terms of his release, but "we believe his risk remains high".
Wilson's reintegration "may seem slow", but it was a work in progress that would take time to ensure it was done properly, she said.
It would be "premature" to relax any of Mr Wilson's conditions, she said.
Mr McKenzie argued Wilson's reintegration was just another form of detention, with no end in sight. 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 his release 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.
"Wilson has shown he can follow the rules."
He also argued the terms of Mr Wilson's release meant he was isolated and hindered his reintegration. He had been issued a driver 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 dangers to himself and the rest of the public could be assessed. Many shops in Whanganui would not allow Mr Wilson inside and a man became "very abusive" toward him on a recent fishing trip, she said.
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, who spoke briefly during the hearing, said 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. However, he should work with Corrections to reach an agreement.
"Obviously any person living in the community who is provided with accommodation and utilities pays for that.
"We would hope that there could be negotiations through a probation officer to reach and agreement that's satisfactory to both parties."
The board declined to alter the condition regarding Wilson's access to a motor vehicle because "it provides sufficient flexibility for the way forward".
"We hope that for the next progress hearing community probation will be able to give us a more indication of the progress Mr Wilson has made."
Mr Wilson 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.
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 Dominion Post