Prison home release for 'Beast of Blenheim'

DEIDRE MUSSEN AND BLAIR ENSOR
Last updated 17:18 08/08/2012
Stewart Murray Wilson
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/Fairfax NZ
'BEAST OF BLENHEIM': Stewart Murray Wilson, seen giving evidence via video link from Rolleston Prison to the High Court.

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Sex offender Stewart Murray Wilson will have to live in a house on prison property in Whanganui following his release from Christchurch's Rolleston Prison on September 1.

The condition is among a raft of strict controls that will be in place for the so-called Beast of Blenheim's release, revealed by the Parole Board today.

Wilson, 65, was jailed for 21 years in March 1996, one of New Zealand's longest sentences at the time, after being convicted on 22 sex charges against women and children spanning from 1971 to 1994, including rape, stupefying or attempting to stupefy, attempted rape, bestiality, ill treatment of children, assault and indecent assault.

His sentence officially ends in December 2015 but the board must release him on September 1 because he will have served his mandatory jail term under old sentencing rules, despite being assessed at high risk of reoffending.

Last month, a 10-year extended supervision order was imposed on Wilson, meaning the Corrections Department could closely monitor him until 2025, when he would be 78 years old.

As predicted, one of 17 special conditions of his release will make him the first child sex offender tracked by global positioning technology (GPS) on parole.

Also, he will be forced to live in a rental house on Whanganui Prison property, which is yet to be erected and awaits resource consent, but is expected to be ready in time for his release.

The Parole Board said Wilson had spent 18 years in jail and under normal circumstances, he would have expected a release "relatively free of restrictions".

However, its paramount consideration was community safety.

"Overall we believe that the conditions will protect the victims and the community at large."

The board had taken into account submissions by Wilson's lawyer, Andrew McKenzie, that he would be in "virtual social isolation" under the conditions, which would not assist his integration into the community.

McKenzie told the board it could not direct where Wilson should live and questioned whether it could force him to be a tenant of the Corrections Department.

As a result, the board dropped its proposed special condition requiring Wilson to sign a licence agreement for the prison house because it was doubted it could force him to sign.

However, he was still required to live at that address and not to move without written approval by his probation officer.

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"While we have adopted that course, we remain uncomfortable that having served his full sentence, and in due course he will be subject to an Extended Supervision Order for 10 years, Mr Wilson is being compelled to live on prison property and within view of the prison."

Corrections Department chief executive Ray Smith said he was "particularly pleased" with Wilson's parole conditions.

"It allows me to exercise ... pretty much the limits of my authority to ensure that the community here is kept safe on his release.

Whanganui was one of only a few towns in New Zealand where Wilson could be released, Mr Smith said.

"In making a choice to bring him to Whanganui, first of all we have worked with the New Zealand police to talk to all of the victims ... around the country because we want to ensure that upon his release he is not released proximate to them. Most if not all of those victims have been contacted and are aware of the decision."

Mr Smith was unable to say where the nearest victim lived.

Only one other person had been released to live on prison grounds Lloyd McIntosh who was based at Christchurch Men's Prison.

"We think the decision to locate him here on prison grounds almost 10km from the perimeter of the nearest population base it just kind of made sense."

Mr Smith said he expected the resource consent "to be done in the right way" by the Whanganui District Council.

Wilson's new home was an "oldish, two bedroom, wooden house" that would be moved onto the prison grounds by Housing New Zealand in the next fortnight.

The building cost about $70,000. It was estimated it would cost an addition $100,000 a year to make sure Wilson was housed safely.

Moving to Whanganui was not Wilson's plan, Mr Smith said.

"I think at one point he had hoped he would have a campervan and be able to travel around."

Wilson had also talked of moving to Auckland.

"What we are trying to do is something that is practical and sensible and I think most people will think this is a practical solution for someone that everyone is worried about.

"I think we are bringing the full weight of resources in behind this."

Wilson is required to appear before the Parole Board again in December to check compliance with the conditions of his release.

If he breaches any of the conditions of his release he could be recalled to prison, Mr Smith said.

National crime manager Detective Superintendent Rod Drew said a lot of work had been done to ensure the public was safe when Wilson was released.

"Naturally many of them [victims] would far rather he remained in jail."

"Although it would be prudent to be wary of him we should not now fear him. We now know an awful lot about him and he can no longer operate in the shadows as he has done in the past when he was offending."

As part of his conditions, Wilson will have to appear in front of the board three months after his release so it can check his compliance with his conditions.

The board noted it had not imposed a curfew because it was unnecessary due to the electronic monitoring.

Other conditions included not leaving Whanganui district without written approval from his probation officer, not to associate with anyone under 16 years unless with another adult over 20 years who had been approved, not to have any female at his address unless approved, to have no contact with his victims, to complete a reintegration programme, not to engage in an employment without approval, to not possess any electronic device capable of accessing the internet.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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