Editorial: Right to tackle a dangerous beast

'BEAST OF BLENHEIM': Stewart Murray Wilson.
'BEAST OF BLENHEIM': Stewart Murray Wilson.

It's no surprise that Stewart Murray Wilson's legal team is challenging the parole terms imposed on the "Beast of Blenheim" for his pending release from prison.

He'd apparently intended roaming the country at whim in a campervan when he finally gets out of prison on September 1. Instead, he faces a series of parole conditions which - for more than a decade - will see him leading a life closer to that of prison inmate than free man.

Few will quibble with that - though his lawyers have already started taking every opportunity to huff and puff before the High Court on his behalf. His legal right to challenge the parole terms is beyond question. Hopefully, however, the justice system will stand firm and reinforce the Parole Board's responsible attempt to keep the community as safe as possible from a vicious and dangerous man.

Wilson is one of the country's worst serial sex offenders and his rap sheet is shocking. Worse, he has never admitted his crimes, shown victims any remorse, or been prepared to undergo any treatment programmes.

The Parole Board has not handed down its strictest ever release conditions for nothing. It considers him a high risk of reoffending - yet he can't be kept locked up in prison because he was sentenced before preventive detention laws were introduced. So it's opted for pretty much the next best thing, and good on it for doing so.

Wilson has served 18 years of a 21-year sentence and can't be held beyond September 1. He's to be released under a 17-condition parole plan that will last for three years, followed by a 10-year extended supervision order - the maximum the board can apply as the law currently stands.

On release, he must live in a state house on Corrections Department land 10km from Whanganui prison, and wear a GPS bracelet. He can't leave the district without written approval, associate with anyone aged under 16 or entertain any female at his house unless approved by a parole officer. He's not allowed on the internet unsupervised, not allowed to contact his victims and has to complete a reintegration programme. He's not allowed to drive, drink alcohol or leave the house unless he has two officers with him.

Breach any of the conditions and he'd almost certainly find himself back in jail. Stay clean, and he'll be 78 before the board's grip on him will be fully released.

Unfair? That's how Wilson and his lawyers see it. But what else can they expect? This beast showed scant regard for the rights of his 30 known victims or the rules of society before he was put away 18 years ago. It's a bit rich to whine about his comparative lack of rights and the rigid rules he must live by now.

At the other end of the offending scale is our own Lewis Stanton. Vexatious, stubborn and challenging he and his 18-month "protest" might be to Nelson sensibilities, but the current way of handling him - arrest and release, arrest and release - is making everyone involved look a tad silly, not to mention wasting police and court time. Stanton and his lawyer are apparently working on a peace plan to present to the city council. Bring it on.

The Nelson Mail