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FENTON - Katrina - 17/02/2012

Parole hearing   
Under section 21(1) of the Parole Act 2002


Katrina FENTON


Hearing:

17 February 2012
at (withheld)

Members of the Board:
Hon M A Frater (Panel Convenor)
Judge B Lovegrove
Mr B McMurray
Mr T Paul
Associate Professor P Brinded

Observer:
Ms N Reynolds for Department of Corrections

Counsel:

(Withheld)

Supporters:

(names withheld)

DECISION OF THE BOARD

Katrina Fenton is serving a life sentence of imprisonment for murder.

Over recent years she has been making positive progress towards release.  She had formulated a comprehensive release plan and has garnered strong community support.

The Board which saw her in November last year felt that she was almost ready for release.  But they had two reservations.  One concerned her proposed accommodation,  the fact that she would be living by herself and could, potentially, become isolated.  The second concerned the fact that she had disengaged from release to work in order to focus on her art which meant that, although she had had a number of temporary releases, she had not been tested in the community as she might otherwise have been. 

While ultimately the Board did not regard the employment issue as determinative, the absence of suitable accommodation was.  Accordingly, they adjourned the hearing to the current Board to enable a more appropriate accommodation proposal to be put forward.  In doing so they said that they did not require any other information unless it would significantly undermine the views expressed in their decision.

Accordingly, the focus of the material put before the Board in anticipation of the current hearing from both Ms Fenton’s counsel, (Withheld), and from RRS, was on the accommodation available at  (withheld), which has been offered through  (withheld) 

There is no question that this would be appropriate.  It is available for a minimum of six months but that time could be extended.  There are two others living in the house; one is a parolee, the other has no convictions.  The house is owned by  (withheld) and the residents are subject to strict rules including zero alcohol or drug use and a 10.00pm curfew.  They also have access to professional counsellors and there is the possibility of involvement in the furniture restoration project run by  (withheld).

(Withheld) also submitted an updated work-plan prepared by  (withheld) on behalf of  (names withheld), an offer of work experience at a design studio, and a further letter from  (withheld) detailing the nature of the support available to Ms Fenton in the community.

Unfortunately, what this material did not address, at least overtly, was the incident in mid December last year which resulted in Ms Fenton returning to mainstream and the discontinuation of temporary outings.

Ms Fenton told us what the papers did not – that on or about 15 December 2011 cannabis was brought into the Self Care Unit.  She was offered some, took a puff on a cannabis roach and then, realising the implications, stopped.  The authorities were alerted to what had happened.  She was drug tested and returned a diluted sample.  She admitted what she had done and the next day provided a negative sample which tends to support her contention that she had only had one puff.  She said that she succumbed to peer pressure.

In the circumstances, and notwithstanding the strength of her release plan, this incident gave us cause to doubt that Ms Fenton has, in fact, reached the point where she can safely be released.  Our concern is that when offered drugs she will be unable to say no.

One of the victims, who we met prior to the hearing, spoke of her concern that Ms Fenton, who, with her co-offenders, has effectively grown up in prison, has acquired sufficient maturity to cope in a very different society from that which she left to come to prison.  This incident suggests a need for ongoing testing in the community before eventual release.  The previous Board spoke of the benefit of release to work in that regard.  Ms Fenton told us that she had been offered a position with the company that she worked for on release to work for six months or so but that she declined because she knew that other employees there used drugs, and that this would be risky for her.

In his December letter, (withheld) said that Ms Fenton had applied for release to work at  (withheld).  If available, that type of work, where she would have the opportunity of meeting and mixing with others her own age would be beneficial.

For the foregoing reasons, at the end of the hearing we advised Ms Fenton that parole was declined but that we needed further time to consider when she should come back before the Board. 

While we are very conscious that her excellent community support cannot continue indefinitely and we do not want to jeopardise it, on reflection we believe that it will take up to six months for Ms Fenton to work back to the position she was in, in November.  As she maintains her minimum security classification and is IDU free, we see no impediment to her returning to Self Care and, hopefully, participating in regular temporary releases and Release To Work, if and when available, in the meantime.  We would certainly support that. 

For now parole declined.




Hon M A Frater
Panel Convenor



Review

•    You may apply for a review of the Board’s decision under section 67(1).  The only grounds under which you may make an application for review are that the Board, in making its decision:

a)    Failed to comply with procedures in the Parole Act 2002; or
b)    Made an error of law; or
c)    Failed to comply with Board policy resulting in unfairness to the offender; or
d)    Based its decision on erroneous or irrelevant information that was material to the decision reached; or
e)    Acted without jurisdiction.

•    To apply for a review you must write to the Board within 28 days of its decision stating which of the above ground(s) you consider to be relevant in your case and giving reasons why you believe that ground(s) applies.
 
•    Reviews are considered on the papers only.  There is no hearing in respect of your Review Application.