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SKINNER- Barrie James - 26/04/2017

Parole Hearing
Under section 21(2) of the Parole Act 2002

Barrie James SKINNER

Hearing: 26 April 2017 at [Withheld]

Members of the Board:

  • Ms M Coleman - Acting Panel Convenor
  • Ms G Hughes
  • Ms W Taumaunu

Counsel:

  • [Withheld]

Support Persons:

  • [Withheld]

DECISION OF THE BOARD

1. Barrie James Skinner, aged 56, appeared before the Board on 26 April 2017 for further consideration of parole on a sentence of eight years and six months.

2. The sentence was imposed following convictions on 80 charges of dishonestly using a document, seven charges of attempting to pervert the course of justice and five charges of providing false information to the Inland Revenue Department.

3. At this trial and on appeal Mr Skinner maintained that at no stage did he believe that he had provided unlawful advice or had done anything wrong.  The sentencing Judge referred to his breathtaking lack of insight into his offending and that his actions once the IRD started investigating were anything but the actions of a person who believed himself to be innocent.

4. This lack of insight troubled the Board at Mr Skinner’s first parole hearing in May 2015, which it considered extended to the fundamental distinction between honesty and dishonesty.  The Board noted that Mr Skinner was unrelenting in his examination of the “twigs and leaves” of his scheme while seemingly oblivious he was deep within a forest of dishonest endeavour.  The Board concluded that because of this “gaping disconnect” he would pose an undue risk to the safety of community, notwithstanding the protective factor of good family support.

5. A year later the Board remained concerned that the “gaping disconnect” persisted.  The Board noted that Mr Skinner had completed a short motivational programme, but that his focus appeared to be on lifestyle imbalance rather than on the thinking that had led to his offending.  The Board was of the firm view that despite having undertaken that programme he had yet to gain any real insight into his offending.  It recommended that he undertake a short rehabilitation programme followed by a period of reintegration through activities such as self-care and [Withheld]  in the course of which his probity could be tested.

6. Mr Skinner has just completed the SRP.  He was earlier offered a place on a Medium Intensity Rehabilitation Programme but he declined, in part because he said the Board decision was that he need only do a SRP.

7. Mr Skinner filed a number of documents that arose out of the SRP Programme for the consideration of the Board.  These included a Progress and Achievement Report that was prepared a few days in advance of his completion of that programme.  The Report noted that Mr Skinner had taken an active role in all sessions and had contributed positively to the programme, including by assisting other inmates in their own participation.  Mr Skinner was said to have regularly demonstrated a thorough understanding of the programme’s core concepts and skills and had applied these to himself.

8. Mr Skinner updated his original safety plan during the programme, regularly revising it as the programme progressed.   He provided a copy of his updated safety plan to the Board, along with his offence map.

9. His learning from the SRP Programme was the subject of a lengthy discussion at the Board hearing on 26 April 2017.  The Board also discussed in some detail with him his proposed employment for release.  The Board reserved its decision to enable members to consider properly all the material filed as well as the points made by Mr Skinner in response to issues and concerns raised with him.

10. Having now done that, the Board has reached the view Mr Skinner still poses an undue risk to the safety of the community.  Parole is declined accordingly.  Our reasons are set out below.

11. The Board remains concerned Mr Skinner still does not fully accept responsibility for his offending.  This was evidenced in a number of different ways:
(1) First, Mr Skinner appeared to be clinging still to the notion there was nothing fundamentally improper in the scheme he was involved in implementing.  He told the Board that the scheme was well thought through from a tax perspective and had the transactions been completed it would have been a whole different story.  While Mr Skinner said he accepted that the transactions were unlawful for the reasons put forward by the Court, the Board was left with the distinct impression Mr Skinner did not accept the Court’s analysis was correct.
(2) Second, Mr Skinner appeared to minimise his role in the offending by focussing both in his offence mapping and in his safety plan on the risks of “group think”.  Mr Skinner told the Board that he didn’t consider it was his job to challenge the morality of the group.  This left the Board with the strong impression he considered he had sublimated his own morality to that of the group, which in turn enabled him to avoid confronting his own morality.  The reality is that Mr Skinner was a driver of the criminality of the group, not a passenger.  He needs to own his offending, not look for reasons beyond himself to rationalise why it occurred.
(3) Third, while Mr Skinner professed remorse he was unable to present any demonstrable evidence to us of that remorse.  Instead he relied solely on his bankruptcy to explain the lack of any reparation, despite the personal benefit to him of an amount in the order of $1.3 million.

12. The last Board recommended Mr Skinner undertake the SRP followed by a period of reintegration including self-care and release to work.  That course remains appropriate in our view.  The SRP has assisted Mr Skinner to start the process of closing the “gaping disconnect” but it is not yet closed.  In light of his refusal to accept a placement on the MIRP, we are concerned that Mr Skinner approached the SRP as a “tick the box exercise”.  He has yet to consistently demonstrate full acceptance of his criminality and needs to demonstrate changed thinking over a period of time.

13. In saying that, we recognise Mr Skinner has identified his becoming aware of opportunities to circumvent the tax rules as a high risk factor for him.  This is an important step in the process for Mr Skinner but does not represent the end of it.  It is an acknowledgment of fairly recent origin.

14. The Board also has significant reservations about the suitability of Mr Skinner’s proposed employment as a project manager of a construction project owing to the multiplicity of business and fiscal transactions involved.  We are not satisfied the [Withheld] business arrangement will provide the necessary independent oversight of his work.  While we acknowledge the undoubted intelligence [Withheld] never before managed a construction project.  For that reason, and because of [Withheld]  we are concerned she would be unable or unwilling to call Mr Skinner to account.  Her support for Mr Skinner on release will be very important but should not be stretched to cover over all key aspects of his reintegration.  Mr Skinner should look to others in his support network to assist.

15. Mr Skinner will be seen again in February 2018 and before 28 February 2018 in any event.  The period between then and now will provide Mr Skinner with an opportunity to prove himself in the community and to unequivocally come to terms with his offending.

Ms M Coleman
Acting Panel Convenor