A judge has sympathised with the concerns of Wanganui District Council over the placement of Stewart Murray Wilson in its community but said such offenders had to live somewhere.
A High Court decision made public yesterday on the council's call to reconsider the sex predator's release in the town, said the council had legitimate reasons for objecting but ultimately could not win the case. The council argued that the safety of the community was not adequately assessed by the Corrections Department.
But Justice Young said the Corrections Department and the Parole Board met all their obligations when trying to find a suitable location for the 65-year-old.
"There is no evidence to support the plaintiff's contention that Corrections focused on where victims lived, somehow to the exclusion of the paramount consideration of community safety," Justice Young said.
Wilson will be living on the grounds of Whanganui Prison in a two-bedroom house under strict parole conditions.
The council's assertion that the departments were too focused on victim protection instead of community safety had little basis, Justice Young said. "It seems likely most local authorities will object on behalf of their citizens to the release of recidivist offenders in their territory."
However, the case raised questions about whether local authorities had grounds to push for judicial reviews of such decisions.
"The Wanganui council in this case should have standing to bring these proceedings."
Whanganui residents would be more deeply affected than other New Zealanders by the decision, the judge said. "But such offenders, assuming an entitlement to release, must live somewhere."
While the council's attempt at forcing a review failed, it had the right to raise concerns on behalf of the community.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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