BOUWER - Colin David - 11/09/15
Under section 21(1) of the Parole Act 2002
Colin David BOUWER
Hearing: 11 September 2015
via AVL from NZPB Head Office, Wellington to [WITHHELD]
Members of the Board:
Hon. MA Frater – Panel Convenor
Judge M Behrens
Assoc. Prof P Brinded
Ms L Nathan
Support People: [WITHHELD]
DECISION OF THE BOARD
1. Sixty five year old Colin David Bouwer appeared today for his first parole hearing.
2. He is serving a life sentence of imprisonment, imposed on 19 November 2001, after he was found guilty by a jury of the murder of his wife, Annette Bouwer, in Dunedin on 5 January 2000. The Court of Appeal dismissed his appeal against conviction, but granted the Solicitor-General’s appeal against the minimum period of imprisonment. As a result Mr Bouwer has spent 15, rather than 13, years in custody before becoming eligible to be considered for release on parole. His parole eligibility date is the 16th of this month.
3. Mr Bouwer has no previous convictions in New Zealand.
4. He was supported today by [WITHHELD] , who presented submissions from Mr Bouwer’s counsel, [WITHHELD], who was unable to be present. He was also supported by his friends, [WITHHELD] and [WITHHELD]. A number of other supporters, from within New Zealand and overseas, including [WITHHELD] who, have written to the Board.
5. The Parole Act 2002 directs that the Board must not release an offender on parole unless we can be satisfied that he will not pose an undue risk to the safety of the community or any person 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.
6. The Court of Appeal has confirmed that the Board is required to have regard to the risk that an offender poses not only to the safety of the New Zealand community but, if they are to be deported following release, the safety of the community to which they will be returned.
7. Mr Bouwer was served with a deportation order on 17 October 2002 and there are no outstanding appeals. Accordingly, on release from prison he will be sent back to South Africa, where he and his family moved to New Zealand from in 1997.
8. In assessing risk, the Board follows a structured decision-making process. We consider the nature of the index offence, the factors which led to it, the steps which the offender has taken in custody to address his offending, and the strength of his release plan. We also have regard to the views of his victims.
9. We started our discussion with Mr Bouwer by talking about his offending and his explanation for it.
10. The evidence at trial is summarised in the Court of Appeal judgment.
11. Following Mrs Bouwer’s death tests revealed sulphonylurea drugs in her blood in amounts which could have caused her death. It was also discovered that Mr Bouwer, who was then a medical practitioner practising and teaching as a psychiatrist at the Dunedin School of Medicine, had, over a two month period, obtained quantities of those drugs, using false prescriptions which he wrote out.
12. At trial the Crown said that Mr Bouwer intentionally caused his wife’s death by administering sulphonylurea drugs, sedating her for this purpose. The defence case was that she suffered from a rare and undetected condition known as beta cell hyperplasia and that, depressed by her undetected illness, took her own life using the drugs which her husband had stockpiled to commit suicide himself, as he had also been suffering from depression.
13. Mr Bouwer now admits that the defence case was wrong. He says that he and his wife had a long standing agreement that in the event that one of them suffered a terminal illness they would assist the other to die, and that, ultimately, this is what he did, with her agreement, using insulin, which he had also obtained using forged prescriptions.
14. He also acknowledged that in the lead-up to her death, after she had become very unwell, he provided the sulphonylurea drugs to her without her knowledge. He said he did so in an endeavour to force her to be hospitalised, as she was refusing medical attention.
15. Mr Bouwer said that he did not tell his side of the story at trial, after legal advice not to use the euthanasia explanation.
16. He talked of the possibility of appealing to the Privy Council on the basis of a newly provided opinion that Mrs Bouwer was suffering from myasthenigravis, which would have brought about her death in any event. However, that has had no bearing on our decision-making. We treat him as properly convicted.
17. Mr Bouwer said that it was a one-off situation, with a severely compromised person.
18. He assured us that he would never practise medicine again or have access to medication. He said that over the years he has had much time to reflect and he has come to understand the enormity of what he did. He acknowledged that he was dishonest, not only in relation to his wife’s death, but also about a number of other matters, including his health which, he said, was a total fabrication and a means of coping. He said that he was quite depressed (although not clinically depressed) and looking for a way to explain his own wrong-doing.
19. He has read the submissions made by members of his wife’s family in South Africa. He said that he understands the depth of their anger and hurt.
20. Mr Bouwer professes to be a changed man. He says that, in rediscovering his Jewish roots, and his Messianic enlightment, he has matured. And his son and his many supporters attested to those changes. [WITHHELD] urged us to allow [WITHHELD] parole on compassionate grounds, and to save the New Zealand tax payer money.
21. Mr Bouwer was assessed by a departmental psychologist as presenting a low risk of perpetrating further offences of the type for which he is presently imprisoned. The report writer suggested that the target of any re-offending would most likely be an individual with whom he shared a relationship and that such offending would occur in the context of a focus upon himself and an inability or unwillingness by Mr Bouwer to seek assistance for difficulties he was experiencing.
22. The psychologist did not see the need for Mr Bouwer to participate in high intensity or long duration events-focused intervention. He said that Mr Bouwer has a reasonable intellectual understanding of his high risk situations and strategies for how best to avoid or mitigate such situations should they arise. Nor did he recommend any group-based treatment. Rather, he suggested that Mr Bouwer be referred to the psychological service for a brief individual intervention focusing upon the details of a safety plan and ensuring that it has been comprehensively considered.
23. That has not happened yet.
24. Nor has Mr Bouwer’s recently amended release plan been checked by Community Corrections.
25. Until recently Mr Bouwer’s plan on return to South Africa was to live with a [WITHHELD] on a rural property near Durban. Mr Bouwer told us that he had corresponded with [WITHHELD] for two to three years and he had visited him once while he was in Otago Corrections Facility. He understands that he is or was a Methodist Minister. However, when Community Corrections contacted [WITHHELD] they ascertained that he no longer owns a farm and that his wife was not willing to have Mr Bouwer live with them, although the offer of more general support continued.
26. In the last two weeks Mr Bouwer’s [WITHHELD], a lawyer practising in Johannesburg, has come forward to offer [WITHHELD] both accommodation and employment. The employment is at a medical company owned by [WITHHELD]. He also offered financial support, although Mr Bouwer says that he has other resources in South Africa, and offers of financial, practical and moral support from New Zealand and around the world.
27. In his written submissions [WITHHELD] emphasised, in support of release, Mr Bouwer’s impeccable prison record. He said that he is essentially a model prisoner. He has never been mentioned in any misconduct reports or attained an IDU status.
28. He submitted that the circumstances which gave rise to Mrs Bouwer’s death and Mr Bouwer’s involvement in that death would never be repeated. He said there was no need for a psychological referral. He submitted that Mr Bouwer is not a risk to the community and that, in terms of section 7(2)(a) of the Parole Act 2002, he should now be released for the purposes of deportation.
29. After reflecting upon the written material available to the Board and our discussion with Mr Bouwer, his supporters and his accompanying PCO, we are not satisfied that Mr Bouwer has reached a point where he no longer proposes an undue risk.
30. We are concerned about the numerous untruths that Mr Bouwer has told over the years and find it difficult to ascertain where the truth lies. We believe that he would benefit from individual psychological treatment. His release plan also needs a great deal more work.
31. Parole is declined today. Mr Bouwer will be scheduled to be seen again in August next year, and in any event, by 30 August 2016.
32. An updated psychological assessment report is required for that hearing.
Hon. MA Frater