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WHAREKURA - John Michael - 10/08/2018

Parole Hearing

Under section 21(2) of the Parole Act 2002

John Michael WHAREKURA

Hearing: 10 August 2018

at Auckland Prison
via AVL from Auckland Region Women’s Corrections Facility

Members of the Board:

  • Mr N Trendle (Panel Convenor)
  • Dr J Skipworth
  • Ms G Hughes
  • Mr L Comer

Counsel: Mr D Young

Support Persons:

  • [withheld]
  • [withheld]
  • [withheld]

DECISION OF THE BOARD

  1. John Michael Wharekura is serving a life sentence of imprisonment for murder imposed on 22 August 2003. The Judge, in sentencing, imposed a minimum period of imprisonment of 14 years. Mr Wharekura entered the address of a young lady who was unknown to him and, for no apparent reason, attacked her with a knife. Ms Burr suffered fatal injuries. Mr Wharekura left the address with some of her property. He later gave himself up to the police.
  2. Prior to today’s hearing the Board met with [withheld]. They expressed their concern that should Mr Wharekura be released and not continue to maintain his medication regime, the community would be put at substantial risk.  Previously, they had raised other concerns with respect to Mr Wharekura consuming alcohol or using controlled substances. They also said, if he were released, he should not be permitted to enter Palmerston North or Rotorua.
  3. Mr Wharekura responded to his victim concerns by emphasising that it was his first priority and at the top of the list of things to do to ensure that he maintain his medication regime. He said it was now part of his life and he assured his whānau and the Board that he would continue to maintain his medication even though he was not subject to compulsory process. He also indicated he would respect his victims’ wishes by not entering Palmerston North or Rotorua.
  4. Mr Wharekura was transferred to [withheld] early last year for the purposes of reintegration. His illness was well stabilised on medication. He progressed to unescorted ground leaves and to escorted community outings. He returned to Auckland Prison in March of this year and commenced working in the joinery factory. He is also employed as the administration order which is a trusted position within the prison and we understand an application for him to attend Release to Work (RTW) is before the advisory panel and he is likely to be approved for RTW in due course.
  5. Mr Wharekura was represented by his counsel, Mr Young, who made submissions in support of his release. He emphasised that Mr Wharekura took responsibilities for his actions immediately. He has developed insight into his mental health condition and has been totally compliant with respect to medication issues. Whilst at [withheld] he completed further alcohol and drug counselling and he has participated in some 25 outings either in [withheld] or in prison. He is actively playing sport and has a positive rapport with both staff and other prisoners. Mr Young emphasised the strength and depth of his family support.
  6. During his sentence Mr Wharekura has successfully completed the Medium Intensity Rehabilitation Programme (MIRP), the Drug Treatment Programme (DTP), a Tikanga Māori Wānanga and Mahi Tahi, and a number of other educative and personal development courses.  He is a minimum security prisoner and has received positive reports with respect to his conduct and compliance in prison. The psychological assessment dated 28 June 2018 refers to his progress in prison and notes that he has a well-developed insight with respect to mental health issues and the need for him to continue with his medication regime.
  7. On release, Mr Wharekura is proposing to live with [withheld].  He told us that he respects [withheld] who is very active. He has also close whānau support in the area. Whānau know well their responsibilities with respect to bringing to the notice of the authorities if they detect Mr Wharekura not adhering to his release conditions or if his mental health should deteriorate.
  8. We explored a number of related issues with Mr Wharekura in the course of a lengthy hearing. We concluded, however, that having regard to the progress he had made in prison to the support supervision available to him in the community, that his release would not, at this stage, place an undue risk to the safety of the community. In reaching that conclusion the Board accepts Mr Wharekura’s assurance that it is his foremost priority to maintain his medication regime. We were fortified in reaching that conclusion with his whānau members having a similar sense of priority with respect to that issue.
  9. We direct Mr Wharekura’s release from prison on [withheld] September 2018. Thereafter he will be subject to standard conditions for life and the special conditions set out below for a period of five years. One of those conditions requires Mr Wharekura not to use, possess or consume alcohol, controlled drugs or psychoactive substances. He is aware that he will be subject to the statutory drug and alcohol testing regime and may be required, without notice, to participate in drug and alcohol testing or monitoring by a probation officer or a police officer. He is also required to attend a monitoring hearing in six months’ time.
  10. We request a report from his probation officer for that hearing with respect to Mr Wharekura’s compliance with release conditions. We also anticipate his probation officer would advise the Board as to Mr Wharekura’s ongoing compliance with his medication regime.  We impose that condition because of a need for Mr Wharekura’s strict compliance with his release conditions to manage his risk in the community and for the fact that he entered prison at a very young age and is returning to the community on the basis of the support available to him and the changes he appears to have made whilst subject to this sentence.
  11. We have included special conditions with respect to the Board’s victims concerns and the conditions with respect to Mr Wharekura’s need to maintain an appropriate relationship with community mental health and to maintain his medication.
  12. We have selected [withheld] September 2018 as the appropriate release date to allow time for appropriate arrangements to be made for the transition to community mental health services and for a whānau hui to be held. As to the latter we request Mr Wharekura’s case manager to facilitate a reintegration meeting involving the support of community mental health service and the prison forensic service, his probation officer and psychologist. No doubt issues relating to his medication will be finalised in the course of that meeting.
  13. Upon release, Mr Wharekura’s special conditions are as follows:

    (1) If directed, attend a whanau/family hui at an approved venue within a time frame to be determined by your Probation Officer.

    (2) Undertake and complete the any other such programmes, counselling, treatment or courses as may be directed by your Probation Officer.

    (3) To attend a reintegration meeting as directed by a probation officer.

    (4) To reside at [withheld] and not move from that address unless you have the prior written approval of a probation officer.

    (5) Not to enter Rotorua or Palmerston North, as defined by a probation officer in writing unless you have the prior written approval of a probation officer.

    (6) You are not to have contact or otherwise associate with the victim(s) of your offending, directly or indirectly, unless you have the prior written consent of your Probation Officer.

    (7) To engage with Community Mental Health Services and attend appointments as required.

    (8) Subject to section 15(5) of the Parole Act 2002, to take any medication prescribed by a health professional in accordance with any directions given by the health professional.

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

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

Mr N Trendle
Panel Convenor