Denis Richard LUKE - 03/06/2016


Parole hearing

 Under section 21(1) of the Parole Act 2002

Denis Richard LUKE

Hearing:       3 June 2016 at (withheld) Facility

Date of Decision:       20 June 2016

Members of the Board:                       
       Hon. MA Frater – Panel Convenor
       Assoc. Prof. P Brinded
       Mr J Thomson
       Mr L Tawera


In attendance:                                     

Support People:                                 


1.            Fifty-seven year old Denis Richard Luke is serving a life sentence of imprisonment for the murder of Christopher Crean in [withheld] on 6 October 1996.  This crime was committed while he was on life parole for another murder committed 21 years previously

2.            Mr Luke last appeared before the Board in September 2015.  At that stage he was in [withheld] Prison where he had, for a number of years, participated in reintegrative activities.  However, having regard to the victim’s concerns, he did not seek release into the (withheld) area where the crime was committed.  Instead, with the support of his whanau, he put forward a new release and reintegration plan, focussed on release to the home of (withheld), in (withheld)  And the Board supported his transfer to (withheld), so that he could participate in reintegrative activities in that area, which he was not familiar with. 

3.            Although Mr Luke transferred to (withheld) at the end of November last year, he has made very little progress with reintegration.  He has, of course, been able to have regular visits from [withheld], and there have been a number of whanau hui, but he has not yet had any temporary releases.

4.            Because of his deteriorating health he is no longer seeking to engage in Release to Work.  He is, however, keen to have home leaves and to build his support in (withheld) and nearby suburbs by engaging with community groups such as(withheld)y.

5.            He is not causing any problems in custody.  He has maintained the minimum security classification he has held since April 2012 and his IDU free status.  Nor has he been mentioned in any misconduct reports.

6.            He is currently residing in the Self-Care Residences and keeping himself constructively occupied.

7.            He is fortunate to have strong whanau support.  His (withheld), in particular, has worked hard not only to construct a comprehensive release plan for him, but also to liaise with (withheld), an advocate for the (withheld), in the hope of brokering a reconciliation with the (withheld) whanau, who whakapapa to the same Marae as Mr Luke.

8.            In her written submissions, Mr Luke’s counsel, [withheld], submitted that given his past reintegration work and strong community support, it would be appropriate to release him on parole to his brother’s address, with strict conditions.

9.            And Mr Luke’s whanau reiterated that submission at the hearing.  They said that he is a different person from the man who committed these dreadful crimes, that he has shown wisdom, and has long-since ceased any association with gangs.

10.          While it is clear that Mr Luke has made changes in a custodial setting and does appear to have insight into his dynamic risk factors and high risk situations, that does not mean that he is either ready for, or can safely be, released.

11.          In their decision of November 2012, the Board said that, “with his criminal history the Board must be extremely cautious in any parole decisions that relate to Mr Luke.”

12.          And that need for extreme caution has been reiterated in subsequent decisions.

13.          In her ruling on the application by the Crown for Mr Luke and each of his co-offenders to serve more than the minimum non-parole period of 10 years, the Chief Justice noted that since his release on life parole in 1985 Mr Luke had made   “significant strides in rehabilitating himself within the community”.

14.          She also noted that his longstanding probation officer spoke highly of his personal characteristics and that he was not directly involved in the killing.  He was a step back.  He had a leadership role within the Black Power gang and encouraged the active participation of others in killing the victim.

15.          Given that, good behaviour in custody, while important, cannot, by itself, be taken as evidence of reduction in risk.  That can only be established by ongoing testing across time and situation.

16.          Mr Luke has only been in [withheld] for just over six months.  The real testing process has not begun.  He does not know the community into which he seeks to be released and, at this stage, has limited support in that area.  Whilst (withheld) have each pledged their support, we note that (withheld) will not be home during the day, and other pro-social supporters, such as (withheld), live in other parts of the country.

17.          It needs to be emphasised that release on parole is not a given for any offender, let alone one with a history of serious violence, like Mr Luke.  He needs to be carefully tested in the community, and that will take some considerable time.

18.          Accordingly, parole is declined today.

19.          Mr Luke’s next hearing will be in May 2018.



Hon. MA Frater

Panel Convenor