VINCENT - Alfred - 05/10/15
Hearing for Postponement Order
27(4)(b) of the Parole Act 2002
Alfred Thomas VINCENT
Hearing: 5 October 2015
via AVL from NZPB Head Office, Wellington to
Members of the Board:
Hon. J W Gendall QC – Panel Convenor
Mr J Thomson
Ms G Hughes
Ms S Pakura
DECISION OF THE BOARD
1. Alfred Thomas Vincent is serving a sentence of preventive detention imposed on the 27th of September 1968. His parole eligibility date was the 27th of September 1975. His sentence of preventive detention arises out of prolific sexual offending against young boys.
2. There is information before the Board which refers to Mr Vincent self reporting some years ago that he had offended against over 100 boys between the ages of eight and 15 although most of these did not result in convictions. Mr Vincent has now been in custody for almost 48 years. He has been subject to a number of postponement orders since 2003. The last was made on the 31st of August 2002 for a period of three years.
3. He came before the Board on the 28th of August 2015 for consideration of parole and a further postponement order. That hearing deferred the issue of postponement until today because the Board wanted an independent psychiatric assessment of Mr Vincent’s ability to instruct counsel, and his understandings of the implication of making a postponement order. This has now been received and we have a detailed comprehensive report from a consultant psychiatrist.
4. The expert opinion, shortly put, asserts that despite some possible earlier cognisance impairment. “Mr Vincent is competent to instruct counsel, understands sufficiently the process of meeting with the Parole Board and the purpose of the Parole Board and the purpose of his lawyer to assist him and act on his instructions.”
5. Furthermore the psychiatrist reported that:
“Mr Vincent was able to name his lawyer. He was able to tell me that his lawyer helped represent him in front of the Parole Board. He was able to advise me that the Parole Board comprised of four to five persons in the room.”
6. [withheld] appeared as counsel for Mr Vincent. However, [withheld] said to us that [withheld] had been instructed by an Auckland lawyer [withheld], who “considered that [withheld] is acting for Mr Vincent.” [withheld] said his instructions, or brief, from [withheld] were to advise the Board that [withheld] would not accept a Postponement Order should be made, and that it would be “inhumane because of Mr Vincent’s age and [withheld] (that is [withheld]) would take the issue to the High Court on appeal and later would be going to the United Nations “should a postponement order be made”.
7. For an offender such as Mr Vincent, serving and indeterminate sentence, a postponement order for up to 5 years of his most recent parole hearing may be made if “the Board is satisfied that, in the absence of a significant change in the offender’s circumstances, the offender will not be suitable for release for the duration of the postponement order.” (S27 (4) (b))
The exercise of that power is clearly discretionary.
8. Mr Vincent has had multiple attempts at the [withheld] Treatment Programme at [withheld] but has gained little benefit from this, being stood down on four or five occasions for engaging in sexual activity or behaviour leading to sexual activity with younger male prisoners.
9. Some background facts are contained in the recent report from the consultant psychiatrist who summarises Mr Vincent’s convictions from sexual crimes since 1963 including:
“In 1984 whilst upon daytime parole with equivalent release to work he was convicted of preparing to commit crime in a public place related to being observed with his arm around a young boy’s shoulder. Psychological reports indicate in addition to his thirteen official sexual convictions he is reported having additional history of undetected sexual offending against male children most of whom were unknown to him, those reports stating that he has admitted to committing offences on most days when he was in the community between aged 15 – 27, his self-reported estimates from past psychological reports vary between 100 and 500 victims aged between the age of 8 and 15.”
10. It is abundantly clear that Mr Vincent has no viable release proposal, is consistently assessed as a high risk sexual offender and has benefitted little from treatment; the past postponement order made on 31 August 2012 was not challenged by him or his counsel. Since then there has been no change in his circumstances. We are advised that he will not be given any further opportunities for Child Sex Offender Treatment programmes. He is highly institutionalised and there are no reintegrative activities or agencies able to provide the intense level of surveillance and management that would be needed if he were to be released. He is New Zealand’s longest serving prisoner and sad as it may be, he remains a significant high risk sexual offender who by his own admission (recorded in an earlier report to the Board) to the police believed he would re-offend on release and pose a threat to young males.
11. The report from the consultant psychiatrist dated 26 September 2015 provides:
(25) “Despite cognitive impairment on top of his borderline IQ, I believe Mr Vincent is competent to continue to manage his own affairs within his current environment and certainly functionally within the constraints of his current environment. He would not be somebody that Psychiatric Services for the Elderly would even remotely consider required a welfare or property guardian nor would he be someone who would reach threshold for aged residential care in either a rest home or hospital or dementia rest home care.”
(26) “Having said this however, given that he is of borderline IQ and has been in prison for just about all his adult life, it is highly likely if he were to be released from prison that he would function extremely poorly in the modern world and would require considerable supervision and support. However as indicated above, this is not to the level of Aged Residential Care.
12. We refer to the submission conveyed to us by [withheld] that Auckland counsel challenges an order based on “humane treatment” argument. We simply observe:
a) the statutory test for postponement to which we must have regard is clear
b) so too, it is the statutory test for release on parole, or continued detention in prison
“Humaneness” does not appear directly relevant to these tests if a prisoner remains a danger to society. Parole is not granted simply because a person hasn “served long enough” any more than it is declined because he “hasn’t served long enough”. There is ample room for the view based upon the lengthy history, our assessment of Mr Vincent, and the psychiatrist opinion quoted above, that at present even if parole were to be granted, it would be inhumane on him as he could not function properly in the community.
13. For completeness we add that there is room within the Parole Act 2002 and the Board’s functions, for compassionate, or humane, consideration under s41 (6), where an inmate is “seriously ill and unlikely to recover”. There can then be release on compassionate grounds. The provision is naturally very restricted and at present, Mr Vincent does not fall within it.
13. We must return to determine the statutory test if considered for parole for the purposes of postponement, namely whether he would be suitable for release for the duration of the postponement order. We have no doubt at all that he would not be suitable for release. Despite his age he remains an undue risk to the safety of young boys or men in the community, and nothing has changed since he was last postponed.
14. Mr Vincent himself accepts that a postponement order should be made. In his exchanges with the Board he was asked what his view was on possible postponement of up to 5 years. He said “I have just done three years” and in response to [withheld]’s query as to what he thought about another 3 years, he said “Three years would be alright.” We consider he was independently accepting that was necessary and we made sure he understood the position.
15. We are mindful of Mr Vincent’s age (he will be 78 on 22 October 2015) and that our present views is that postponement for 5 years would be too long, given that fact. We think a further period of 3 years is necessary, as he accepts.
16. Whilst the sad history suggests he may never be able to satisfy the Board, that, in terms of s27 he will be suitable for release, it can never be the case that all hope is lost. The opportunity to request consideration for parole earlier than the 3 years period exists “at any time” if there has been a significant change in his circumstances, always remains. So too does the availability of compassionate release if his health fails to such an extent so as to provide jurisdiction under s41.
17. To conclude: In our discretion a postponement order is made. He will be subject of postponement for 3 years from when last considered, namely 28 August 2015.
Hon. J W Gendall QC