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COOPER - James Grant - 13/11/2017

Parole Hearing

Under section 21(2) of the Parole Act 2002

James Grant COOPER

Hearing: 13 November 2017

at [withheld]

Members of the Board:

  • Ms T Williams Blyth (Panel Convenor)
  • Mr D Hauraki
  • Mr P Elenio

Counsel:

  • [withheld]
  • [withheld]

Support Person: [withheld]

DECISION OF THE BOARD

1. James Grant Cooper (29) appears for further consideration of parole.  He is serving a sentence of seven years three months for perverting the course of justice and manslaughter.

2. Mr Cooper has a RoC*RoI of 0.16506, a prison security classification of minimum and statutory release date of 6 September 2019.  There is approximately one year nine months remaining on his sentence.

3. When he last appeared, the Board continued to support completion of the medium intensity rehabilitation programme (MIRP).  A psychological report was requested.

4.Legal submissions have been filed for today’s hearing.  Counsel refers to the delay in providing rehabilitation, saying that it has been approximately 18 months since a referral to MIRP was recommended.  Counsel lists, at paragraph 2.8 of his submissions, the factors in support of Mr Cooper’s release on parole.  Those factors are:
(a) Has incurred no misconduct charges;
(b) Has been compliant with a positive approach;
(c) Is willing to care for, and does care for, disabled prisoners;
(d) Maintains a drug-user free status;
(e) Notwithstanding the prison’s inability to admit Mr Cooper to either the MIRP or the SRP, Mr Cooper has continued to make progress, namely by:
(i) Completion of the Employability Passport Course on 9 February 2017;
(ii) Completion of the Short Budgeting Skills Course on 10 March 2017;
(iii) Commencing employment and training in the connex industry at [withheld] in the electrical workshop.  Unit staff report that he is “very compliant and supportive to staff.”
(f) Mr Cooper has progressed to a self-care residence where he is able to practise learned skills in anticipation of release.
(g) Remains waitlisted for the MIRP programme through no fault of his own.

5. Mr Cooper seeks parole and the opportunity to undertake rehabilitation in the community.

6. As identified above, there have been no issues in the prison setting.  Mr Cooper is again residing in self-care and working in the Connex Unit.

7. Counsel for Mr Cooper reiterates his written submissions.  He takes issue with the prison and says that it is not good enough that his client has had to wait this long and is still not scheduled for rehabilitation.

8. It is counsel’s submission that Mr Cooper has made progress and has demonstrated that his risk has been reduced.  Any residual risk can be managed in the community.  He further submits that if the Board is not minded to grant parole then a short stand down period should be directed.

9. Mr Cooper says that he has been trying to do the best that he can in the prison setting.  He referred to his work in the electrical workshop, his assistance to a previous disabled cellmate and the fact that he has a strong relapse prevention plan.

10. He commented that, prior to prison, he was a habitual drinker after work.  He described his use as moderate to heavy.  After completing the Drug Treatment Programme he says he is no longer interested in drinking alcohol.  The strongest tool he has learnt while being in prison is communication.  He now is able to ask people for help including staff and other prisoners.

11. The Board understands and acknowledges Mr Cooper’s frustration, however, the fact remains that he has not yet completed offence focussed treatment.  From the Board’s perspective he must complete offence focussed treatment for the Board to say that his risk is no longer undue.

12. We acknowledge the good work that Mr Cooper has done but reiterate previous Board decisions that Mr Cooper must complete the MIRP or one-to-one work with a psychologist to address his offending needs.  If neither of those is available to him, then the prison must consider Mr Cooper’s eligibility to complete the Short Rehabilitation Programme (SRP).

13. The PCO has stated that she will do her utmost to ensure that the programme is made available to Mr Cooper.  She makes no promises.

14. In the circumstances, the Board is not satisfied that Mr Cooper’s risk is no longer undue.  Parole is declined.  Mr Cooper will be seen for further consideration of parole in June 2018 and no later than 30 June 2018.

15. At the conclusion of the hearing, there was a brief discussion about the victims’ concerns and Mr Cooper’s release proposal to live with [withheld].  Mr Cooper is subject to the VNR Register.  It would assist the Board if the parole assessment report writers could confirm the victim’s position.

16. The Board strongly supports Mr Cooper completing the MIRP, individual work with a psychologist or SRP.  A specific addendum is requested for the next hearing.  The addendum is to address the treatment undertaken, his risk and an assessment of his release proposal.

Ms T Williams Blyth
Panel Convenor