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BUTLER - Jason Robert John - 06/03/17

Parole hearing

Under section 21(2) of the Parole Act 2002

Jason Robert John BUTLER

Hearing:6 March 2017 at [Withheld]

Members of the Board:

  • Hon. M A Frater (Panel Convenor)
  • Ms M More
  • Dr J Skipworth
  • Ms P Rose

Counsel:

  • [Withheld]

In attendance:

  • ([Withheld] – Psychologist)

Support Persons:

  • [Withheld]
  • [Withheld]
  • [Withheld]
  • [Withheld]

DECISION OF THE BOARD

1. Forty-four year old Jason Robert John Butler is serving a sentence of life imprisonment for the murder of Stephanie Baker on 18 July 1997.

2. He was sentenced on 7 April 1998 and became eligible to be considered for release on parole on 1 August 2007.

3. Mr Butler has been diagnosed as suffering from [Withheld].  He also has an anxiety disorder, and alcohol and cannabis disorders, in remission.

4. He was first admitted to [Withheld]  at [Withheld] in 2001.  His current admission began on 15 April 2009 and he has remained  [Withheld] ever since.

5. During the past eight years, he has steadily progressed from the secure ward into the community.

6. When he appeared before the Board on 31 March last year, he was spending four nights per week in [Withheld], an open rehabilitation unit, and three nights in a flatting situation at [Withheld], a forensic facility run by [Withheld] in the community.  The Special Patient Review Panel had already approved overnight leave of up to seven nights, and subsequently the approval of the Director of Mental Health was also obtained.

7. Since November last year, Mr Butler has been spending the majority of his time in the community.  That means that he returns to the hospital to sleep overnight one night each week, but otherwise is living in the community.

8. He is, however, far from free.  The [Withheld] accommodation where he lives is supervised 24/7 and a manager is on site each day.  Mr Butler also has regular contact with his case manager, [Withheld], who is a qualified nurse.

9. Over the past year or so, Mr Butler has faced a number of challenges in the community, and has dealt with them appropriately.

10. He is not showing any symptoms of [Withheld], apart from anxiety, which he is managing, with medication.  He seeks help when needed, and is demonstrating that he can work through issues, for example, problems associated with the recent purchase of a car, as the arise.  He has been working on a voluntary basis at two different sites, two days a week, but hopes to obtain part-time employment, and is being assisted to prepare his CV and to approach prospective employers.

11. [Withheld] told us that the consensus of opinion among the mental health staff who have been working with Mr Butler is that he has reached the point where he can safely be managed in the community, on parole.

12. He will have an enviable amount of support to do this. As well as the ongoing support of a probation officer, he will remain in [Withheld]s’ accommodation for three years or so, and continue to be supported by the forensic mental health team for the foreseeable future.

13. Mr Butler will also have the active support of [Withheld] as he transitions into the community.  [Withheld] has attended most, if not all, of his parole hearings, and is in regular contact with him.  He has a realistic understanding of the challenges facing Mr Butler, and an established commitment to support him.

14. Mr Butler has also formed a close relationship with [Withheld], who was present today, and has also been present at other parole hearings.  She told us that [Withheld] is the best that she has seen him, and that [Withheld].

15. Last, but not least, mention should be made of the position of Mr Butler’s registered victim, who witnessed the horrendous crime which brought him to prison.  We told him of the meeting which we had with her, and her supporters, earlier today, and of her concerns, (a), that he was not remorseful for the effect that his offending has had, and continues to have, on her, and, (b), that he would pose a threat to her on release.

16. In response, Mr Butler reiterated the statements which he has made to the Board at previous hearings, and set out in the letter recorded in the last Board’s decision, i.e. that he is remorseful for his offending, and does not bear any ill will towards the victims.  He respects [Withheld]’s wish that he be precluded from entering the Bay of Plenty, but said that, at some point in the future, he would like to return to the North Island, provided he had his Probation Officer’s approval to do so.

17. Having regard to the progress which Mr Butler has made, the impressive support he has available in the community, and the changes he has made during the past 20 years, particularly in dealing with his mental illness, we are satisfied that his assessed moderate risk of violent offending and low/moderate risk of general re-offending can be managed in the community, and that provided he complies with the comprehensive conditions which we will impose he will not pose an undue risk.

18. It will be noted that these conditions do not include a condition prohibiting him from returning to the North Island; nor do they include a condition requiring him to be subject to electronic monitoring, as the victim requested.  This is because we do not consider those conditions are necessary to manage Mr Butler’s risk, and because he will be subject to stringent conditions as part of the conditions of his accommodation, and his parole generally. However, because of the nature of his offending, and his mental health issues, he will be subject to a condition requiring him to attend for a progress and monitoring hearing in six months time. The ongoing need for the curfew, and, indeed, any other special conditions, can be reviewed at that hearing.

19. Mr Butler will be released on parole on 8 May 2017.

20. We are deferring the date of release to enable comprehensive arrangements to be put in place for Mr Butler’s release and any transition between the inpatient and community mental health systems..  Although, upon release he will cease to be subject to special patient status, he will continue to be subject to the provisions of the Mental Health Act.  The delay will also give time for a meeting between his probation officer, mental health support team and all his other supporters to be arranged, and take place.

21. Following release Mr Butler will be subject to the standard conditions set out in section 14 of the Parole Act 2002 for life.  The special condition prohibiting him from possessing or consuming alcohol or illicit drugs will also continue for the rest of his life.  Unless otherwise specified, the remaining special conditions will continue for five years post release.

22. The special conditions are:-
(1) To reside at [Withheld] and not to move from that or any other subsequently approved address without the prior written approval of a Probation Officer.
(2) To comply with a curfew at your approved address between the hours of 10pm and 6am daily.
(3) To comply with the rules of the [Withheld], in relation to your accommodation.
(4) To obtain the approval of a Probation Officer before starting, terminating or changing your position or place of employment, including voluntary and unpaid work.
(5) To disclose to your Probation Officer any intimate relationships you may enter into or re-establish.
(6) Not to enter the Bay of Plenty without the prior written approval of a Probation Officer.
(7) To engage with Forensic Mental Health services concerning all aspects of your treatment plan to the satisfaction of the Forensic Mental Health Service and Community Corrections.
(8) For the duration of your life, not to obtain, possess or consume alcohol or illicit substances.
(9) Not to have contact or otherwise associate with any registered victims of your offending, directly or indirectly, without the prior written approval of a Probation Officer.
(10) To attend a hearing on a date in November 2017 notified to you in writing, to monitor your compliance with your release conditions.

Hon. M A Frater
Panel Convenor