OPINION: The conditions imposed on Stewart Murray Wilson for his release from prison are extraordinary. The number and strictness of them is probably unique.
But there is not the slightest doubt that they are necessary and that the Corrections Department is doing all it can under the law to ensure that an undeniably dangerous man is not given the opportunity to offend again.
Residents of Whanganui would prefer, of course, that Wilson did not come anywhere near their community, no matter what conditions are imposed on him. A local councillor has spoken of trying to involve politicians in trying to get him sent somewhere else.
That effort is pointless. The plain fact is that Wilson cannot be kept in prison beyond September 1 (in fact, because that date is a Saturday, he is likely to be released to his new address a few days earlier for administrative reasons). He must go somewhere and Whanganui was chosen because none of Wilson's known victims lives there and a house can be set up near the local prison grounds so that he can be closely monitored. Trying to get him moved elsewhere would simply result in a place where he is less secure in the view of the Corrections Department - which, considering the lengths it has gone to, is surely correct.
If he had been subject to it, preventive detention would have enabled the imprisonment of Wilson indefinitely. By a malign stroke of fate, however, even though he was found guilty of 22 crimes, Wilson was acquitted of the one charge of rape that would have qualified him for the sentence. The crimes he committed were horrendous - including rape and bestiality committed on 16 women and girls - but he could only be sentenced to a finite term.
He was eligible for release in 2008, but that was denied on an application by the Corrections Department. Now, however, after 18 years, he has served the maximum proportion of the sentence that the law allows.
That Wilson remains at a very high risk of reoffending is, on the evidence of psychologists to the High Court, beyond question. He continues to deny all guilt for his offences. He has refused to discuss any realistic plans for how he might live after his release, at one point coming up with the sublimely fanciful suggestion that he might get a campervan and tour the country.
In his years in prison he has pursued numerous legal proceedings, including a private prosecution of the detective in charge of his case and 10 against the Parole Board. He has peppered many people, from the Queen down, with letters protesting his innocence.
Most alarmingly, at a recent hearing, when asked if he would stick to a post-release condition that he have no contact with children under 16, he said: "I don't give a stuff about it."
By setting him up in a house near Whanganui prison, not allowing him to leave unless accompanied by Corrections staff, denying him access to a computer, providing for global positioning system tracking and so on, Corrections has gone as far as possible to keep potential victims safe from him. These conditions will apply for a further 13 years by which time he will be 78 and and, it must be hoped, incapable of reoffending.
Wilson's lawyer has suggested the conditions are so stringent that they set Wilson up to fail and has said he will seek to have them reviewed. But they are nothing less than people expect for anyone with Wilson's record and attitude.
- © Fairfax NZ News