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LUKE - Denis Richard - 03/05/2018

Parole Hearing

Under section 21(2) of the Parole Act 2002

Denis Richard LUKE

Hearing: 3 May 2018

at Auckland South Corrections Facility

Members of the Board:

  • Hon M A Frater (Panel Convenor)
  • Dr J Skipworth
  • Ms S Pakura
  • Mr P Elenio

In Attendance: [withheld]

Support Person: [withheld]

DECISION OF THE BOARD

  1. Denis Richard Luke, aged 59, is serving a life sentence of imprisonment, with a minimum non-parole period of 14 years, imposed for his part in the murder of Christopher Crean in New Plymouth on 6 October 1996.
  2. At the time, Mr Luke was the President of the Hawera chapter of the Black Power gang.  In that capacity he was involved in planning the killing, as retribution after Mr Crean gave evidence for the police against gang members involved in an earlier crime.
  3. This is Mr Luke’s second murder conviction. He was released on life parole following an earlier sentence imposed on 17 February 1975.
  4. Mr Luke’s current sentence began on 16 October 1997 and he became eligible to be released on parole on 14 October 2010.  He has spent approximately 21 and a half years in custody on this sentence.
  5. He has used that time positively.  Over the years he has completed the Mauri Tu Pae (MTP) and Special Treatment Unit Rehabilitation Programme (STURP).  He has also participated in extended periods of individual psychological treatment and lived in both inner and outer self-care units at various prisons.
  6. He is currently housed in the residences at Auckland South Corrections Facility.  He has been at this prison since the end of November 2015.
  7. In 2014, he was diagnosed with a serious health issue [withheld].
  8. Mr Luke last appeared before the Board in June 2016, when he was told that release on parole was not a given, particularly for an offender with a violent history like his.  Having regard to the need to test him in the community over time, his next hearing was scheduled for just under two years hence.
  9. Subsequently, Mr Luke made two applications under Section 26 of the Parole Act 2002 for an earlier hearing, but each was declined.
  10. In the 23 months since the last hearing, Mr Luke has remained living in the residences and has retained the minimum security classification he has held for six years now.  He has not been mentioned in any incident or misconduct reports and he has remained IDU-free.
  11. In 2017, he enjoyed three temporary releases to visit [withheld].  There were two in July and one in August.
  12. Then, suddenly, the approval for the visits was suspended - for reasons including “media interest” and “reputational risk”.
  13. Progress resumed in November last, when the multi-disciplinary team, Mr Luke, his whānau and members of the prison management team, met to discuss the way forward.
  14. That was followed, on 9 March this year, by a visit by Mr Luke and some of his supporters to [withheld] Marae.  Mr Luke and his party were welcomed with a powhiri and Mr Luke was encouraged to speak – which he did, in te reo, which he has learnt in custody.
  15. Mr Luke has been working with a psychologist in preparation for today’s hearing and, just last week, he enjoyed a further supported release to [withheld], which he hopes to be released to.
  16. Apparently, this was a positive experience for all concerned.  What made it particularly enjoyable and memorable for Mr Luke was the fact that [withheld] came to see him, as did [withheld].
  17. Against this background, Mr Luke sought to be released on parole.  He spoke well to the Board about these new experiences and his concerns about release and the unknown.
  18. [withheld] has been visiting him and supporting him since his partner died several years ago.  It is apparent that [withheld] have a respectful and supportive relationship and are committed to living together for the foreseeable future.
  19. [withheld] has more or less permanent casual employment as a truck driver and says he will encourage [Mr Luke] also to find work, although he appreciates that his health needs must be sorted first.
  20. For his part, Mr Luke said that in the community he wants to work on his fitness, establish a relationship with his Probation Officer and contribute, as he can, to teaching te reo and kapa haka – both activities he has been involved in, in custody.
  21. He expects to maintain and build contacts with [withheld], who have both encouraged him in his parole journey and, of course, he wants to get to know his mokopuna.
  22. Mr Luke appreciates that while he has that opportunity, by his actions and those of his associates, those relationships within Mr Crean’s whānau have been irreparably broken.  He is also aware of the other tragedies the whanau have suffered and is obviously remorseful.  He respects the registered victim’s express wish that he not enter the Taranaki province without the prior written approval of his Probation Officer, and accepts that such approval should not be given until victims have been consulted.  He is also aware that under the standard conditions, his Probation Officer can prohibit him from having contact with named persons – in his case, likely to be gang members – and accepts a general prohibition on contact with Black Power members.
  23. He also accepts a prohibition on possessing, consuming or using alcohol, controlled drugs or psychoactive substances and is aware that an authorised officer – a Police Officer or Corrections Officer – can require his use of those substances to be tested or monitored.
  24. We note that Mr Luke consents to being subject to electronic monitoring in respect of the whereabouts condition. This, and any of the other special conditions, can be discharged, varied or substituted at the monitoring hearing, which will be held in February 2019, on a date to be advised.
  25. Overall, Mr Luke’s risk of violent re-offending is assessed as high.  However, we note that the writer of the latest psychological assessment report said that warning signs of any increase in his risk, such as detachment from pro-social supports and spending increased time with gang associates, would likely be present for some time before such offending occurred.
  26. In those circumstances and having regard to all the positive factors noted above, we are satisfied that Mr Luke’s risk to the safety of the community can be mitigated, and managed on parole, provided he complies with the conditions imposed.
  27. Accordingly, he will be released on parole on [withheld] July 2018, subject to the standard conditions set out in section 14 of the Parole Act 2002 and the special conditions detailed below.  The standard conditions will continue in force for life. Unless otherwise specified the special conditions will continue for five years post release i.e. until 8 July 2023.
  28. We have deferred the date of Mr Luke’s release to enable further guided releases to take place and generally to prepare him for his return to the community after so many years in custody.  Among other things, he would benefit from getting to know the area into which he will be released.  It is also important that a whanau hui is convened prior to release.  This should bring together all his supporters, both professional, including his Case Manager, assigned Probation Officer and the psychological report writer, and personal, including [withheld], any supporters from local churches such as [withheld], and representatives of the [withheld] marae.
  29. The special conditions are:

    (1) To attend for a psychological assessment. Attend and complete any treatment and/or counselling as recommended by the psychological assessment to the satisfaction of your Probation Officer and treatment provider.

    (2) To attend and complete any other assessment, treatment, counselling and/or programme directed by your Probation Officer to the satisfaction of your Probation Officer and the provider.

    (3) To reside at [withheld] and not to move from that or any subsequently approved address, without the prior written approval of a Probation Officer.

    (4) Until 8 October 2018 to remain at your approved address between the hours of 10pm – 6am daily unless you have the prior written approval of a Probation Officer.

    (5) Not to enter the Taranaki province as defined on a map provided to you by your Probation Officer unless you have the prior written approval of your Probation Officer.

    (6) To submit to electronic monitoring in the form of Global Positioning System (GPS) technology as directed by a Probation Officer in order to monitor your compliance with any condition(s) relating to your whereabouts.

    (7) To notify your Probation Officer prior to starting, terminating or changing your position or place of employment.

    (8) Not to associate or otherwise have contact with any victim of your offending, directly or indirectly unless you have the prior written approval of your Probation Officer.

    (9) Not to communicate or associate with members of the Black Power gang, unless you have the prior written approval of your Probation Officer.

    (10) Not to possess, use or consume alcohol, controlled drugs or psychoactive substances, except controlled drugs prescribed to you by a health professional.

    (11) To comply with any direction made under section 29B(2) of the Parole Act 2002 to attend a hearing at a time and place to be notified to you.

Hon M A Frater
Panel Convenor