James Grant COOPER - 18/03/2016
Under section 21(1) of the Parole Act 2002
James Grant COOPER
Hearing: 18 March 2016C at [withheld]
Members of the Board:
Judge Kiernan – Panel Convenor
Support People: [withheld]
DECISION OF THE BOARD
1. James Cooper aged 28 is serving a sentence for manslaughter and obstructing the course of justice. The total sentence is seven years and three months.
2. Last before the Board in October 2015, a further psychological report was requested. At that time the Board had the report dated 27 March 2015 but suggested that the Parole Board would be assisted by a comprehensive risk assessment and recommendations as to further rehabilitation or reintegration.
3. Today Mr Cooper was supported by [withheld] at the hearing. He made clear to the Board that he was asking for consideration of parole. If parole was not granted he was anxious to advance within the Prison environment and get working.
4. Mr Cooper has written a submission to the Board. There are victim’s submissions on the Board file and Mr Cooper has seen them previously. At this hearing he expressed his sorrow and regret to the family of the victim about the events that resulted in the death of the victim and the concealment of that death. He also wanted to express his apology to his own family for the stress he had brought on them.
5. Mr Cooper is assessed by the psychologist as at low risk of future violent offending. It is noted that he is able to identify potential risks and destabilising factors and that he would benefit from testing the skills acquired on programmes in less restricted settings. It is also noted that Mr Cooper needs to develop a comprehensive release plan and share that with family and others.
6. The specific recommendations of the psychologist note that although Mr Cooper has completed programmes targeting his substance abuse, he has received no treatment to address violence, poor emotion management, cognitive distortions associated with avoidance and poor problem solving skills. The psychologist recommends that his classification be overridden for a referral to the MIRP Programme.
7. In discussion with the Board Mr Cooper expressed a willingness to engage in that programme although a preference to completing it after release from the Prison. He feels that the core problem issues for him which were substance abuse have been dealt with on the DTU which he did complete in June 2015.
8. Mr Cooper got a good report from the accompanying prison officer. He is resident currently in internal Self Care and working in the kitchen. He does suffer from anxiety issues but is learning to communicate with staff and others when anxiety arises. The normal rehabilitative pathway for Mr Cooper would be to work first outside the wire either in refurbishment, external grounds or on the farm and then move to stay in external Self Care and ultimately obtain Release to Work.
9. Having considered Mr Cooper’s views, noting [withheld] support and fortunately [withheld] visit regularly and is in contact the telephone, and the recommendations of the psychologist, this Board concludes that currently without a comprehensive release plan and further work done in the custodial environment on the aspects noted by the psychologist, Mr Cooper must be seen as an undue risk to the safety of the community at present.
10. We ask that urgent consideration be given to an override so that he can engage in the MIRP Programme. If that is not appropriate then we urge one on one sessions with a psychologist which we hope might commence as soon as possible. We encourage Mr Cooper to work further towards his reintegration within the Prison and to work with his case manager on developing a more comprehensive release plan.
11. In declining parole today, the Board will see him before the end of November 2016.