The research on familicide all points to Robin Bain as the killer

david-bainFamilicide is the name given to a particular kind of multiple murder – where one member of a family kills virtually everyone else in the family. If the perpetrator commits suicide afterwards (which occurs in 60% of such cases), it is referred to as familicide-suicide.

In June, 1994, David Bain was accused of shooting all five members of his family – the crime of familicide. He was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison – although according to Canadian judge Ian Binnie ‘no plausible motive ever emerged’.  He spent 13 years in prison before a retrial, at which he was found not guilty.

Throughout this process, David’s defence team argued that Robin Bain killed his wife and children while David was out delivering newspapers; that he typed the cryptic message found on the family computer (‘Sorry. You are the only one who deserved to stay’) and then shot himself – in a case of familicide-suicide.

Ian Callinan: forced to stand down in Australia because of perceived bias

Binnie said David should get compensation. The Government didn’t like that idea and shopped around for another judge – one who was willing to write a report declaring that David didn’t deserve it. They found one in Ian Callinan QC, who had a history of bending the rules in Australia.

So far, not much has been reported in the New Zealand media about Callinan’s dodgy legal ethics or the extraordinary flaws in his compensation report. But there’s a wealth of information available on the David Bain Campaign website.


But there’s another side to this story which has not seen much daylight either. A systematic review of the literature on familicide  found a number of common factors in such incidents. The first is that in 95% of cases where both parents were killed, the perpetrator was the father. Only 1% of familicides are committed by an adult son. The researcher wrote:

“In cases where (one of the) sons killed both parents, the research indicates that the perpetrator is always either severely abused, suffering from severe mental disorders (usually psychotic) or psychopathic. There are no identified cases where the son exhibits none of these pathologies and does not commit suicide.”

Robin Bain fits the profile for familicide

Second, many of these fathers displayed symptoms of depression prior to the killings and a number of Robin Bain’s professional colleagues testified to this effect. Fellow teachers described Robin at the time of the killings as “deeply depressed, to the point of impairing his ability to do his job of teaching children”.

He also published graphic and inappropriate stories of violence and killings by his 9-year-old pupils in the school newsletter; one of those stories involved the murder of an entire family. The president of the Taieri Principals’ Association at the time, found this “unbelievable” and regarded the publication of these stories as “the clearest possible evidence that Robin Bain had lost touch with reality due to his mental state” (Privy Council, 2007, para 41). The publication also suggests Robin had possibly been planning to kill his family months in advance.

It appears Robin Bain never sought professional help for depression, but this is another point of commonality; fathers who commit familicide tend to view themselves as the head of the family, and “control their outer image closely, rarely confiding in people or seeking help”. The fact that family and friends said Robin appeared to be happy is consistent with other familicides; such men internalise their personal sufferings in order to maintain appearances.

Angry vs despairing perpetrators 

The literature also suggests there are two types of familicide perpetrator. At one end of the continuum, there is the angry type – men who have displayed a well-established history of anger and hostile behaviour, especially towards women. For this type, the killing of one’s partner and children is an act of revenge or punishment, usually following parental separation. At the other end of the continuum, there is the despairing type of perpetrator who has no previous history of hostile behaviour and is generally well regarded in the community. This description applies to Robin Bain.  For this type, familicide, followed by suicide is “an escape both for himself and his family from an intolerable future”.

In addition to feelings of depression and anger, the literature shows that familicide is generally preceded by a prolonged build-up of shame. This usually follows parental separation or a serious breakdown in the relationship; loss of employment or significant financial losses may also be involved.  These lead to a psychological loss of control and/or a perceived loss of social status.   Robin Bain also fits this profile. He and Margaret had been estranged for several years and by all accounts, he was unfulfilled in his job. He had applied for a number of other teaching positions, but was unsuccessful.

But for Robin Bain, there may have been an even greater source of shame. He was a Christian, a Freemason and a respected member of the community. At the second trial, witnesses said he had been committing incest with his youngest daughter, Laniet, ever since the family came back from Papua New Guinea. If indeed he had been molesting her, this would have created intense feelings of guilt and internal conflict. It seems that “despair is the end-state for these perpetrators”.

The triggering event

The research also found that in most cases of familicide there is usually some kind of triggering event, one which leads to a sense of “ignominy, terminal public shame, mortification and self-disgust”.  Testimony at the second trial suggests Laniet was about to reveal to the rest of the family what her father had been doing to her. It seems the potential loss of face Robin Bain was facing was so great, he not only killed everyone else in the family (except David), he also shot himself. This is another point of commonality.  In over 60% of familicide cases, the offender subsequently commits suicide.

In summary, David Bain did not have an identified motive, did not have a mental health disorder and did not commit suicide. Robin Bain did, or had, all three. In every single aspect of this case, it is Robin Bain rather than David Bain, who fits the profile of the typical perpetrator of familicide, followed by suicide.

Arthur Taylor subject to cruel inhuman treatment – Ombudsman: chief executive implicated.

Arthur TaylorDuring his current incarceration in Paremoremo, Arthur Taylor has got right up the noses of Corrections officials by repeatedly taking them to court. He asked the High Court to rule that the National Party’s blanket ban on prisoners voting contradicts human rights – which it does according to the European Court of Human Rights. He appealed the smoking ban introduced by Judith Collins – and won the legal battle forcing the Government to change the rules in order to win the war.

Mr Taylor has become something of a ‘prison lawyer’ and for a while was allowed to store his legal files in a separate room. Not surprisingly, Corrections management don’t like him, and in June 2011 he was placed on ‘directed segregation’ after he was allegedly caught with a cell phone in his possession.  (If the Department’s cell blocking technology actually worked – current cost $13 million – Mr Taylor would not have been able to use a cell phone, but that’s another story.)

Directed segregation

IsolationDirected segregation means the prisoner is locked in his cell 23 hours a day and unable to communicate with other prisoners.  According to the Ombudsman, this “allows a prison to restrict or deny a prisoner the opportunity to associate with other prisoners thus reducing any influence or risk that they may present.”  However it may “only be imposed when absolutely necessary to protect the security, good order and safety of the prison, and should only be imposed for the period that such a risk exists.”

Segregation in prison is a punishment of last resort so is usually imposed for only 14 days.  Arthur Taylor was kept in segregation for more than eight months.  He complained to the Ombudsman who took the matter seriously and released a 34 page report titled the “Management of Arthur Taylor at Auckland Prison between 15 June 2011 and 30 April 2012”.

Extensions to 14 day penalty

The prison manager has to have a valid reason to extend a segregation order. So prison Residential Manager, Tony Queree, wrote a memo saying it was “clearly evident that prisoner Taylor has taken excessive advantage of the unit staff efforts to support him in the preparation of his (legal issues). No matter where we place him, he has continually shown that he presents a significant ongoing threat to the security and good order of this institution.”

Bev WakemThe Ombudsman (Beverley Wakem) could find no evidence that Mr Taylor continued to pose a risk to the security of the prison beyond the initial 14 days.  She contradicted Mr Queree’s assertions noting that:

“No incident reports, misconduct paperwork, or file notes were attached to support Mr Queree’s contention that Mr Taylor remained a threat to the security and good order of the prison… Mr Queree did not provide any information which showed the risk remained, and as such, an extension was required.

“The reference to the assistance provided to Mr Taylor for his legal matters does not appear to be valid… as approval had been given by the Department for Mr Taylor to have an office area, and there was a legal obligation for the Department to provide assistance to prisoners for the preparation of legal proceedings.”

Nevertheless, Mr Taylor ended up in continuous segregation for the next eight months – because management regard him as a litigious and difficult prisoner.  Not only was he isolated from other prisoners, for much of the time he was also denied his entitlement to exercise for an hour a day and was allowed only one five minute phone call a week. The Ombudsman was highly critical of virtually every aspect of Mr Taylor’s segregation and said:

“In many cases most, if not all, of Mr Taylor’s rights and entitlements listed on the management plan were restricted despite no risk being identified in relation to those areas… There are no documented reasons for the decision to deny (him) the ability to associate with other prisoners.”

The High Care Unit

NZ prisonAt one point, the prison manager placed Mr Taylor in what is known as the High Care Unit (HCU). This used to be known as the At Risk Unit but these cells were decommissioned years ago because of their run down condition.  At Risk Units are designed to prevent suicidal prisoners from committing suicide and operate in most New Zealand prisons.  They’re more like sensory deprivations cells – with no TV, no radio, nothing to read and no visitors allowed. The inmates hate them.

Putting psychologically vulnerable prisoners into such conditions was criticised by the Ombudsman in the 2011 OPCAT reportbecause the units are focused on custody rather than treatment.”  That report described the detrimental impact on prisoners “who had been detained in at risk units for several months, often in strip conditions, and with limited opportunities to interact with other.”  The Ombudsman has also noted that Corrections uses At Risk cells to ‘manage’ prisoners who will often “drift in and out of the At Risk Unit whether they are at risk of self-harm or not.”  

The Ombudsman was particularly concerned about conditions in the Auckland HCU, as there was no power or running water and nearby lights were left on all night. Leaving the lights on for months on end contributes to sleep deprivation – one of the ‘clean’ torture techniques used by regimes which claim to respect international law and human rights.

The psychological impact

Noting that Mr Taylor was held in these segregated conditions for months on end, the Ombudsman said “Denying a prisoner the ability to associate with other prisoners is a significant restriction to the prisoner’s rights, and can have significant impact on prisoners’ well-being and mental state of mind if the denial of association is for extended periods of time… The placement of Mr Taylor into the HCU, along with the restrictions imposed by the management plan… was more akin to a punishment regime. Further it appears that his placement into the HCU had the effect of exacerbating his behaviour rather than improving it.”

Peter WilliamsThis should come as no surprise. Retired defence lawyer, Peter Williams QC, who has extensive knowledge of prison conditions, discussed the issues in a Herald article: Jail isolation breaks souls and minds. The question is – does this constitute torture?

The Ombudsman seems to think so. In yet another OPCAT report, Monitoring Places of Detention (2013), she wrote:

Segregated prisoners at Auckland and Mt Eden prisons had particularly bad living conditions… Most prisoners placed on directed segregation were not receiving a daily minimum entitlement of one hour in the open air….The lack of appropriate management facilities at Auckland prison… is exacerbated by a lack of stimulation for those held on long-term segregation.

“Accommodation for those prisoners currently undergoing a period of segregation is well below standard and could be considered cruel and inhuman for the purposes of the Convention against Torture.”

Don’t rock the boat

In other words, the Ombudsman specifically describes the treatment of Mr Taylor as a ‘punishment regime’ which  ‘exacerbated’ his behaviour and depicts the segregation cells in Paremoremo  as ‘cruel and inhuman’.  She excuses herself from doing anything about this by putting the words ‘could be considered’ in front of ‘cruel and inhuman’.  What this seems to mean is that until a prison official is actually charged and convicted, it’s a moot point.

But the Ombudsman is not about to rock the boat. If she had been willing to take a more proactive stance, the United Nations and the New Zealand police would have to be notified and then a prosecution could then be initiated against the prison managers and Corrections chief executive, Ray Smith.

Ray SmithMr Smith would be accountable because section 58 of the Corrections Act says the chief executive has to be informed of any directed segregation “and the reasons for it” and a directed segregation can only be extended beyond 14 days if “the chief executive directs that it continue in force”.  Mr Taylor was subject to directed segregation for eight months – which indicates Mr Ray Smith is complicit in his ‘treatment’.

The potential penalties for Mr Smith are serious. The NZ Crimes of Torture Act – which includes cruel and inhuman treatment – says anyone who “conspires with any other person to commit an act of torture” or “is an accessory after the fact to an act of torture” is liable to up to ten years in prison.

Who you’re gonna call?

The reality is that describing what happened to Arthur Taylor and other segregated prisoners as torture – and suggesting the chief executive should be prosecuted, would likely lead to a media frenzy. It would be politically disastrous for the Corrections Department, the National Government and possibly for the Ombudsman.  No wonder she was reluctant to notify the United Nations or the police.

Graham McCreadyIn the absence of a more definitive statement from her, will the police prosecute anybody? I doubt it. So who you’re gonna call?

Graham McCready  of course.

Abused inmate with complex-PTSD spends 35 years in prison with no treatment

Trevor is 61 years old. He lights fires when he’s drunk. He has 17 convictions for arson but is usually so drunk when he sets fire to something, he doesn’t even remember doing it.  His lawyer asked me to conduct an alcohol and drug assessment on him late last year after yet another arson conviction.

Torture image

Trevor’s mother was an alcoholic.  As he was growing up, his parents fought and argued finally splitting up when he was just seven.  During the conflict and confusion, Trevor was shunted between his parent’s homes before they both gave up on him and put him into the care of the state – at the age of nine. Over the next few years he lived in half a dozen foster homes, occasionally going back to stay with his mother for a few months, before she kicked him out yet again.  He started drinking when he was 12.

The abuse 

Not surprisingly Trevor grew up feeling anxious and insecure. At age 16, he was sent to Lake Alice hospital where he was given shock treatment.  That really pissed him off and a couple of days later, he set fire to his bed.  That was the first one.  Two years later, he ended up in prison – where he was repeatedly raped by an older prisoner. The abuse went on for three years. By the time he got out at the age of 21, Trevor was suicidal, filled with rage and didn’t trust anyone. He was deeply, deeply disturbed.

As soon as he got out of prison Trevor started drinking.  He’s been in and out of prison ever since – 15 times to be precise.  He drinks, generally commits some petty offence, lights another fire and watches it burn. That’s when the police come and arrest him.  At the age of 61, he now has over 100 convictions and has spent 35 of the last 40 years in prison.  He has no friends, no support in the community and says he feels safer in prison.

Each time he ends up in court, the judge usually wants to know why he lights fires – and they wonder if he’s insane. Sometimes an enlightened judge orders a psychiatric assessment. Just before I saw him in 2013, Trevor had been interviewed by a clinical psychologist and a psychiatrist.  I read the reports. They both decided he wasn’t insane – but neither of them made a diagnosis. They didn’t seem to know what was wrong with him. 


I believe I do know what’s wrong with Trevor: he has Complex-Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This is an enduring version of PTSD which results from prolonged exposure to interpersonal trauma. The trauma is exacerbated when it occurs in the context of captivity or entrapment and affects the development of the victim’s thinking and personality. Individuals with complex-PTSD generally experience a profound sense of emptiness, chronically low mood and social isolation – combined with intense anger and rage.

At the age of 61, Trevor experiences all of these and still thinks about what has happened to him every day. But he is polite and articulate.  Talking about his life in a calm manner, he simply said: “What a lot or people have done to me is unforgiveable.”  But when he gets out of prison, he drinks to help him forget about it. He lights fires when he’s drunk because that’s what he learnt to do at age 16 when he was disempowered, lonely and distressed. These days, it returns him to the safety of prison.

Trevor has now spent 35 years inside. During this time, he has never even been diagnosed with PTSD let alone had had any counselling or treatment for it. The psychologist who interviewed him in 2013 wrote:

“Trevor Xxx was interested in receiving therapy with regard to his angry feelings, attachment issues and sexual abuse. Sexual abuse victimisation can be addressed by ACC sensitive claims. Therapy in these areas is likely to reduce his risk of reoffending.”

No therapy was provided. In my report to the court, I wrote:

“The Department should have provided counselling for Mr Xxx’s childhood trauma 40 years ago. Having then allowed him to be raped and abused in prison, the Department should have provided therapy every time he subsequently ended up in prison. If it had, it is possible Mr Xxx would no longer need to anesthetize himself with alcohol every time he gets out.”

The cost of insanity

Trevor is far from insane. He has both insight and intelligence. He knows he’s an alcoholic; he knows he lights fires when he’s drunk and he knows that makes him a risk to society. He also understands that society has to be protected from someone like him. He even knows the system sucks and he’s not going to get any help in prison. He told me the Corrections Department doesn’t have the resources to provide him with a psychologist to actually try and help him.

He’s absolutely right about not getting any help. But he’s dead wrong about the resources. It costs the taxpayer $100,000 a year to keep someone in prison. After 35 years, the Department has already spent $3.5 million just locking him up. If he lives another ten years and spends most of that in prison, Corrections will spend another $1 million on him before he dies. So you can’t tell me they haven’t got the resources to help him – it’s the system that’s insane, not Mr Xxx.

Officers ‘justified’ in suffocating suicidal prisoner to death – the case of Nicholas Harris

The coroner’s report into the death of Nicholas Harris in Waikeria prison last year was released recently. In the process of trying to stop him from committing suicide, six or more prison officers held him down and restrained him – till he suffocated to death.

Harris had only been in prison a few days and was being held on remand.  He had recently been released from a psychiatric hospital but his mental health problems which were not picked up by prison staff at the intake assessment. The coroner found that: “The assessment of Mr Harris fell short of the national requirement. In particular, the Principal Corrections Officer and the nurse who consulted on that assessment did not make enquiries relating to Mr Harris’ mental state.” 

On the morning of January 9, 2011 a staff member issued a “code blue” when CCTV footage showed he was planning to kill himself.  Officers entered the cell with the intention of relocating him to the “at risk unit” where he could be monitored more closely.  There were six of them.  Harris was already lying on the floor. They held him face down and applied ‘approved methods of restraint’ to control him.

The cause of death

Corrections told the coroner that “Mr Harris violently resisted the application of these holds, and additional officers were called to assist.” After a struggle that lasted about five minutes, Harris was restrained and handcuffed.  At this point, staff noticed he was not breathing.  The coroner found that the cause of death was “asphyxia of an undetermined cause, initiated either by self-strangulation or pre-existing medical condition, but in combination with restraint, with an underlying condition of morbid obesity with secondary dilated cardiomyopathy (heart disease)”. 

‘Asphyxia’ means suffocation and the coroner says it was of ‘undetermined cause’. No it wasn’t. It was caused by five or six officers sitting on top and restraining him – clearly described in the coroner’s report as a “seething mass of humanity”.  See his report here.  The coroner appears to have said the cause was ‘undetermined’ because there were health issues involved and by law, he is not allowed to apportion blame – merely to identify the circumstances of the death and make recommendations for change.

Deaths in police custody

The same limitation applies to the Independent Police Conduct Authority. It investigates complaints against the police – including deaths in police custody. It can make recommendations for change, but also has no power to prosecute.  Earlier this year, the IPCA released a report titled Deaths in Custody after 27 people died in police custody in the last ten years. Seven of them died when officers were overly vigorous in their use of restraint

Five of those who died had underlying medical conditions. Three suffered from heart disease – they collapsed and died after physically struggling against the restraint that was applied to them – just like Nicholas Harris.  Three died from positional asphyxia – being pushed down on the floor, handcuffed from behind – just like Harris; a number were arrested for violent behaviour at the time they collapsed – just like Harris. One death involved a police officer applying a neck hold to someone who was resisting arrest.

Of the 27 deaths in police custody, the IPCA said in over half of them, “the actions of the police fell short of the expected standards” and in four cases, the failings were serious. The report recommended that Police “ensure that the training provided to staff reinforces the dangers associated with restraining people in a prone position with their hands tied behind their back”. However, not one police officer was prosecuted.  Only two officers even faced disciplinary action – one received an ‘adverse report’ and the other received a written warning.

This is because the IPCA has no power to prosecute – that’s up to the police. But the police are not keen to arrest their own officers – even when the IPCA has pointed out that serious failings were involved.  Police are equally reluctant to charge Corrections officers whose failings have contributed to the death of prisoners in their care – and about 80 have suffered ‘unnatural deaths’ in the last ten years. Each death was examined by the coroner – who, of course, doesn’t blame anyone. That’s over 100 people who have died in custody in the last ten years – and not one police officer and not one corrections officer has ever been charged.

That’s unbelievable. Is it really possible that over 100 people can die in police and corrections custody in the last ten years, and not one officer is prosecuted?  Suppose 100 law-abiding citizens died in dubious circumstances from unnatural causes – and the police failed to prosecute anyone.  There would be a national outcry –  Garth McVicar would have an apoplectic fit and heads would roll.  But when 100 prisoners die – who cares?  Certainly not McVicar. It seems there’s one law for Police and Corrections officers in New Zealand – and another for the rest of us.

A sick joke

The reality is that Nicholas Harris was killed by prison officers who, theoretically, were trying to save his life. Actually they were more interested in restraining him – even though he was already lying on the floor. They entered his cell, jumped all over him and suffocated him to death – an obese, suicidal prisoner with a heart condition – in a bizarre attempt to stop him from killing himself. It sounds like a sick joke – except that it’s true. The coroner not only said this was justified, he was so unconcerned about the way Harris died, he didn’t make a single recommendation for change. He didn’t even recommend that Harris should have had a psychiatric assessment when he was admitted to prison – or that he should have been given medication to calm him down.

And yet on the coronial services page of the Justice Department website, it says in bold letters: A coroner speaks for the dead to protect the living.   The people being protected are Police and Corrections officers.

Life is cheap in New Zealand prisons – the suicide of Kerry Joll

The Dominion Post has just reported the outcome of the coroner’s inquiry into the suicide of Kerry Joll. Under the headline “Prison death ‘tragic loss of life” the DomPost reveals he was found dead in his cell three months after being sent to prison for drink driving.  Sure it’s tragic – but the headline should have read: “Corrections department says saving prisoners lives is not worth the benefits”.  This in effect is what the Department said in response to a report from the coroner that the Corrections Department should make more effort to assist suicidal prisoners.

Here’s what happened. Kerry Joll had a serious alcohol and drug problem. In 2011 he was sentenced to 14 months in prison for drink driving – his 10th conviction.  Every prisoner has a brief health assessment on admission. When Joll was interviewed by prison nurses, he told them he was taking antidepressants, and that he had hepatitis C – a disease frequently associated with the use of dirty needles.  Three weeks after he was sentenced, he stopped taking his antidepressants.  No one seems to know why.  Two months later he hung himself.  The coroner said he left a note indicating he was “having difficulty dealing with his depression and was unhappy that the Corrections Department did not appear to take seriously his complaint about very loud music being played from the next door cell”.

The Corrections Department absolved itself of any responsibility for his death by claiming that when Mr Joll underwent his health assessment, he failed to reveal that he had made at least two previous attempts at suicide. But they then acknowledged that this information was already on his file but nobody in the prison medical team bothered to look at it – and the IT system used by Corrections does not bring up a red flag indicating when a prisoner is a potential suicide risk.

Not worth the benefits

The coroner appears to have recommended that the Department upgrade its IT system so that vulnerable prisoners are ‘red flagged’.  That might help, but management at Corrections don’t give a tuppeny stuff.  Their written response to the coroner  was:  “Improving our current information systems is regarded as not worth the benefits it would bring because of cost, complexity and proportionately few incidents it would benefit.”

Really?  The suicide rate in New Zealand prisons is 11 times higher than the suicide rate in the community.  Twelve prisoners committed suicide in 2011 – double the figure for the previous year. The rate of failed suicide attempts was almost double the number which actually succeeded.   Twelve dead prisoners a year are not worth the benefit?

How can a Government Department get away with a cavalier attitude like that?  Look at the fuss which goes on when Government Departments inadvertently release confidential information to the public – even though nobody dies.  Look at the fuss that went on when the police broke the law to arrest Kim Dotcom – even though nobody died.  Look at the fuss the Department made when Jason Palmer became the first prison officer to die in New Zealand. The media were all over these stories – and so were the politicians.

But when 12 prisoners a year commit suicide – no fuss at all. No media interest. No political interest. Not even much interest from the Coroner.  Certainly no interest from Corrections – definitely  not worth the benefit of ‘improving our information systems’.  Life is cheap in New Zealand prisons.

How police and probation harass prisoners on parole – the case of Tony Maude

In 2007 I was asked by the district court to conduct an alcohol and drug assessment on Tony Maude who was facing charges of selling methamphetamine. Maude was exposed to drug use at an early age. He started smoking cannabis at the age of 10, using speed at 13 and drinking at age 15. When he was 22, he attended rehab at the Salvation Army and managed to get his drinking under control.  But it wasn’t long before he started using methamphetamine instead and eventually began selling it to feed his habit.

He got busted by police and was sentenced him to prison for six years. Mr Maude knew he needed help and while in prison, he attended individual counselling for 18 months and was then admitted to the Drug Treatment Unit. He successfully completed the programme and was released on parole in May 2010 – after serving more than three years in prison. But police and probation wouldn’t leave him alone. Since being released, Mr Maude has been recalled to prison four times to finish serving his sentence.

First recall

As part of his parole conditions, Maude was required to attend another rehabilitation programme in the community. He was half way through this when he was asked by the programme facilitators to describe a potential high-risk situation and how he would cope with it.  He made one up and described an imaginary situation in such a realistic way, that the facilitators thought it had actually occurred and passed the story on to probation. Instead of checking the details, his probation officer immediately told the police Mr Maude had breached his parole conditions. Police arrested him and sent him back to prison. When Mr Maude appeared at the recall hearing a month later, it was clear to the Board that the facilitators, the Probation Service and the police had all got it wrong – and ordered Mr Maude to be released.

Probation then tried to breach him for failing to complete the rehabilitation course (because he was in prison) and hauled him back into court. His probation officer received a serious reprimand from the judge for his treatment of Mr Maude and for wasting the court’s time.

Second recall

When he got out, Maude went to live with a friend at an approved address. He had only been there about a month when his mother died after a long battle with cancer. But his probation officer didn’t care. He was miffed at being told off by the judge and now had it in for Mr Maude. Shortly thereafter the police raided the house pretending they were looking for methamphetamine.

Police found a cannabis plant growing in a wardrobe – in the bedroom where his friend slept – who was also the owner of the house. They arrested Mr Maude and sent him back to prison – but didn’t arrest his friend who owned the cannabis plant. The friend appeared at the recall hearing a month later and testified that the cannabis plant belonged to him not to Mr Maude. For a second time, the parole board agreed that Mr Maude had not reoffended and released him immediately.

Third recall

During the ten months that Mr Maude had been on parole, he started going out with a female friend he had known for many years.  His probation officer was aware of the relationship and had even let them go on holiday together. He gave Mr Maude special permission not to report into him during the week they were away. About a week after his second recall hearing, Mr Maude and his partner became engaged.

By now he had a different probation officer. Feeling happy about his engagement, he told his new probation officer the good news. Three days later, he and his fiancée were both served with a non-association order. After being honest with probation about his situation, Mr Maude ‘felt gutted’. Nevertheless, he stayed away from his fiancée and the relationship came to an end.

Mr Maude had also told his probation officer that he had some work organised doing up cars and asked for permission to start.  His probation officer gave him the go ahead.  Lo and behold, a few days later, the police came to the property where he was working. They found Mr Maude and rang probation to check that he was allowed to be there.  The probation officer told the police officer it had been approved and he was allowed to work.

Later that night, Mr Maude’s sister rang him up and told him that the armed offenders’ squad had been round to her house wanting to arrest him.  Mr Maude turned himself in six weeks later and the Probation service told the Parole Board he had been “working without written permission”. This time the Board officially recalled him to prison – even though the Corrections Department is supposed to help prisoners find work because  having a job on release reduces the risk of re-offending.

Fourth recall

Since working on parole was a minor breach, Mr Maude was eventually released again – still on parole for his original offending (selling meth). This time, he lived with friends at an approved address in Seaview.  However, he began to get depressed because the house was unsuitable to bring his children to. (On top of all his other problems, Mr Maude had also been trying to gain custody of his five year old daughter in the Family court.) Mr Maude was also beginning to feel that no matter what he did, the police and the probation service seemed to be out to get him.  He bumped into a friend who offered him a smoke of methamphetamine. In a moment of weakness, he accepted the offer – and started using again.

Eventually Mr Maude found a nice three-bedroom home where he could have his children and the probation service approved the accommodation. He had only been in the house for three weeks when he was raided by the police – yet again.  This time they found a small amount of methamphetamine. He pleaded guilty and was returned to prison to serve out the remainder of his original sentence

Recommendation to the Court

Ever since he was first released, on parole Mr Maude has been harassed by the police and probation service. During this time, his mother died, his engagement broke up and his ex-partner took off to Christchurch with his daughter and the police raided every house he stayed at.

Mr Maude relapsed under the overwhelming stress of this combined series of events. In my report to the Court, I concluded that, although he relapsed, Mr Maude does not require any further drug treatment. “What he needs to be left alone by the police and probation service to get on with his life.” (Posted with Mr Maude’s permission.)

Corrections Department’s treatment of Stewart Murray Wilson

Graeme Burton spent 14 years in prison  – doing next to nothing – before he was released and killed Karl Kuchenbecker. Murray Wilson, aka the ‘Beast of Blenheim’ –  committed his crimes well over 18 years ago. He’s been sitting in prison ever since – also doing nothing – and the whole country (well, Wanganui anyway) is up in arms. Why? The ‘doing nothing’ in prison seems to be the problem.

For many years Wilson was held in Rolleston Prison, a low-security prison with a sex offenders unit that delivers group-based treatment to child sex offenders – just what Wilson needed.  But  Corrections refused to put him into this programme because he would not acknowledge  his guilt. That’s very strange considering the entry criteria for this programme state that “denial or other cognitive distortions related to offending behaviour” are an indication of suitability for the programme.

Wilson clearly lacks insight, but it seems Corrections wouldn’t even let him see a psychologist. Speaking via video link to the High Court at Wellington in June 2012, Wilson complained, not for the first time, that he had even been denied counselling with a psychologist for the same reason – he would not admit he was guilty. He said he has had only four hours counselling in the 18 years he has been in prison.

Dealing with denial

Being ‘in denial’ is not uncommon and is often an issue when dealing with drug addicts and alcoholics.  ‘Ambivalence’ is similar – a state of mind where the drinker or drug user is aware they have a problem but is not yet willing to address it.  Alcohol and drug counsellors work with ambivalence and denial on a daily basis by using ‘motivational interviewing’ – individual counselling designed to enhance insight and motivation. It requires a non-confrontational approach to the client and the ability to ‘roll with resistance.’ Once rapport has been established using these techniques, then more in-depth treatment can begin.

Unfortunately, it seems Corrections psychologists were not able to establish rapport with Wilson. He refused to even meet with the psychologist who wrote the final damning risk assessment on him and so she prepared her report from information on his file.  Apart from the dubious ethics involved in writing a report without talking to the subject of that report, why would Wilson not want to meet with her? Probably because Corrections psychologists are generally employed to write risk assessment reports rather than provide therapy – and she had already written a number of negative reports about him.   That’s probably where the ‘four hours counselling’ went that Wilson was referring to. Clearly there was not a lot of trust between Wilson and this particular psychologist.

Wilson’s background

This is not surprising. Wilson comes from a background that makes it very hard for him to trust anyone. His parents were both alcoholics and it appears he was sexually abused as a child himself.   As a teenager he was hospitalised for a long period in psychiatric institutions, and had little in the way of education. Given his personal limitations, that puts the onus on Corrections psychologists to make more of an effort. But they didn’t. They appear to have met with him only four times in 18 years and declared him unco-operative. They wouldn’t allow him to attend any counselling or attend treatment in the sex offenders unit unless he admitted his guilt.

The most pathetic part of  this farce is that Corrections claims it cannot compel offenders to attend rehabilitation programmes. That makes no sense at all. The police have the power to arrest criminals; the court has the power to send them to prison; but Corrections claims that once in prison they can’t compel anyone do a programme. That’s bullshit.  He’s in prison for God’s sake – attendance should be compulsory – especially when international research indicates that compulsory treatment is just as effective as voluntary treatment. The same research also shows that long term programmes work better than short-term programmes – because they give an offender time to become engaged in the process.  That’s why the sex offenders’ programme is the longest the Department provides  – it takes nine months and reduces the risk of re-offending by more than 50 per cent.

Setting offenders up to fail

Unfortunately, Corrections never gave Wilson a chance. They seemed to think he had  to have the necessary insight and motivation right from the start.  That’s just totally unrealistic.  The majority of offenders are also alcoholics or drug addicts who are often unmotivated, in denial or ambivalent at the start of a rehabilitation programme – but become engaged once it gets going.

The reality is that Corrections was responsible for rehabilitating Wilson but made almost no effort to do so.  All they did with him in prison is isolate and contain him – for 18 years. Now he’s being released to Wanganui under the most stringent conditions ever imposed on anyone ever released in New Zealand. That’s  more containment. The people of Wanganui have made it very clear they don’t want him. That’s more isolation.

Someone who knows something about rehabilitation is Victoria University Professor, Tony Ward, a clinical psychologist with expertise in sexual offenders.  He described the fervour at Wanganui’s public meetings as a type of “moral panic” and said that given Mr Wilson’s age, he was unlikely to reoffend.  “The reoffending rate for very high risk people over 60 is about six per cent.” Professor Ward said the best way to rehabilitate sex offenders was to keep them in the midst of other people – where they could be watched – and give them support.”

This is all so familiar. Graeme Burton committed two murders under the influence of alcohol and drugs. Corrections had him in their custody for 14 years and never put him into a programme to address the core issue – his drug addiction.  They also ignored the recommendations of six expert reports pointing out that drug use was a risk factor for Burton and did not bother to provide the Board with an alcohol and drug assessment on him despite a statutory obligation to keep the Board informed about all aspects of his offending.

The Department had Wilson in custody for even longer – 18 years, and they’ve done exactly the same thing – nothing.  One can only conclude that Corrections is deliberately setting up Murray Wilson to fail – just like they did with Graeme Burton.