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HARMER - Kevin Lional - 23/08/2016

Parole hearing

Under section 21(1) of the Parole Act 2002

Kevin Lional HARMER

Hearing:    23 August 2016  at New Zealand Parole Board, Head Office AVL with  [Withheld]

Members of the Board:

  • Hon. MA Frater – Panel Convenor
  • Judge D Mather
  • Assoc. Prof. P Brinded
  • Dr. S Davis

Counsel:

  • [Withheld]

In attendance:

  • [Withheld]

Supporters:

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

DECISION OF THE BOARD

1. Kevin Lional Harmer is serving a sentence of life imprisonment, with a minimum non parole period of 14 years, imposed after he was found guilty by a jury of the murder of his then wife, Jill Thomas, on 4 October 1999.

2. Ms Thomas was killed when the farm Landrover she was sitting in was engulfed by fire.

3. While Mr Harmer says that he blames himself for his wife’s death, he does not accept that he was properly convicted of her murder.  His case at trial, which he still maintains, was that her death was the result of a terrible accident.

4. However, his appeal against conviction and sentence was dismissed.

5. Mr Harmer was sentenced on 30 August 2002 and he became eligible to be released on parole on 11 August 2016.  We saw him today to consider whether or not he has reached the point where he can safely be released.

6. Section 28(2) of the Parole Act 2002 directs that the Board can only release an offender on parole if we are satisfied that he will not pose an undue risk to the safety of the community or any person or class of persons within the term of his sentence, having regard to the support and supervision available to him following release and the public interest in his reintegration into society as a law abiding citizen.

7. We also have regard to the guiding principles set out in Section 7 of the Act including Section 7(2)(a) which states that: “Offenders must not be detained any longer than is consistent with the safety of the community…”, and the requirement in Section 7(2)(d) that we uphold the rights of victims and give due weight to their submissions.

8. In reaching our decision we follow a structured decision-making process.  In doing so we look at an offender’s previous history of offending, the circumstances of his index offence, his behaviour in custody, his assessed risk and any treatment undertaken to address that risk, and the strength of his release plan.

9. Mr Harmer’s behaviour in prison has been exemplary.  He has not incurred any incident or misconduct reports, or attained an IDU status, at any time during his entire sentence, and he has held a minimum security classification since January 2014.

10. He has an excellent employment history.  Over time he has variously worked in the central laundry, the kitchen, in engineering, and in the [Withheld]  and [Withheld]  Prison.  He also spent two years in the community gang, until leave to do so was withdrawn for all prisoners serving indefinite sentences, and for the last 20 months or so, he has worked in the trusted position of unit mess-man.

11. As well as assisting other offenders with their studies, he has worked on research and bookkeeping tasks for the farm which he and [Withheld] own. He has also acquired a diploma in agribusiness.

12. Because of his ongoing denial of his offending and assessed low risk, Mr Harmer has not engaged in any offence-focused treatment.  He has, however, drawn up a comprehensive safety plan.

13. As he has no previous convictions, and because of the age at which he committed this offence, Mr Harmer has a low RoC*RoI score of 0.12061.  Based on that score, which measures static risk factors, and having regard also to dynamic and protective factors, the psychologist who prepared the recent report for the Board assessed Mr Harmer’s ongoing risk of violent re-offending as low.  She suggested that the person at greatest risk from him is likely to be an intimate partner, and that the risk would present when his primary relationship ends or is likely to end.  She said that “a credible relationship with informed supports, such as his probation officer, will be central to his long-term safe living in the community’.

14. Mr Harmer has a very large group of supporters.  His primary supporters are [Withheld]  and [Withheld].  But there are many others, both within the community that he proposes returning to live in, and throughout the country.  They come from a wide variety of backgrounds.  There are people with whom he has worked over the years, church people, business associates, professional advisors, and friends.

15. Mr Harmer wants to be released to live with [Withheld]. We have considered, but rejected, the need for Mr Harmer to be released to live, for a while, in independent, supported accommodation. Given his low risk and the strong pro social support available to him and [Withheld], we are not satisfied that this would serve any useful purpose.  In fact it might be counter-productive.

16. [Withheld].  He is currently undergoing treatment for [Withheld]  issue, and is not seeking other employment.

17. Having carefully considered the large volume of written material before the Board, including the submissions from members of the victim’s family, we have decided that, with the conditions which we will impose, Mr Harmer’s risk of re-offending can be managed in the community to the point where it will not be undue.

18. His special conditions include a condition that he not contact members of the victim’s family, with whom, he said, he has not had any contact since 2008, when issues relating to the victim’s estate were resolved in the Family Court.

19. We have also deferred release for a four week period to enable a reintegration meeting to be held.  This should be arranged by his case manager, in conjunction with his prospective probation officer, and, if at all possible, should be attended by the writer of the psychological report or another psychologist from Psychological Services, and by his closest supporters.  This will provide an opportunity for Mr Harmer to get to know his probation officer and to share his safety plan and particularly his high risk situations, with that person and his supporters.

20. We have also directed that Mr Harmer be subject to a curfew for the first two months following release, and have imposed a prohibition on him communicating with members of the media.  He said that he would welcome such a condition.

21. Finally, we note that although we have not required Mr Harmer to attend a progress hearing, we do want Corrections to file a report under Section 29B(2)(a) of the Parole Act 2002, for consideration by the Extended Board sitting during the week beginning 6 March 2017.  If any matters of concern are raised in the report, it is likely that the Board will direct Mr Harmer to attend a face-to-face hearing, pursuant to Section 29B(2)(b).

22. For the foregoing reasons Mr Harmer will be released on parole on 20 September next.

23. He will, of course, be subject to the standard conditions set out in Section 14 of the Parole Act for life.  Unless otherwise specified, he will also be subject to the following special conditions for five years from release – in other words, until 19 September 2021.

24. The special conditions are :
(1) To attend and complete treatment and/or safety planning with a Departmental psychologist if directed by your Probation Officer, to the satisfaction of your Probation Officer and psychologist.
(2) To undertake and complete any other treatment/counselling or programme, including relationship counselling, directed by your Probation Officer and treatment provider.  The details of the counselling or treatment to be determined by your Probation Officer.
(3) To reside at [Withheld], and not to move from that or any other approved address without the prior written approval of a Probation Officer.
(4) Until 20 November 2016, to comply with a curfew at your approved address between the hours of 10 pm and 5 am daily and not to move away from that address inside those hours without the prior written approval of a Probation Officer.
(5) To attend and participate appropriately in any community support planning meeting(s) directed by your Probation Officer.
(6) Not to contact or otherwise associate with the members of the family of the victim of your offending, directly or indirectly, without the prior written approval of your Probation Officer.
(7) Not to communicate with any member of the media, without the prior written approval of your Probation Officer.
(8) If required, to comply with any direction made under section 29B(2)(b) of the Parole Act 2002 to attend a hearing at a time and place to be notified to you, to enable the Parole Board to monitor your compliance with your release conditions.

Hon. MA Frater
Panel Convenor