Ronald VAN DER PLAAT - 12/02/2016
Under section 21(2) of the Parole Act 2002 and
Under section 18(2) (SRD) of the Parole Act 2002
Ronald VAN DER PLAAT
Hearing: 12 February 2016 at [Withheld]
Members of the Board:
Ms K Snook (Panel Convenor)
Mr P Elenio
Mr R Crotty
Support Person: [Withheld]
DECISION OF THE BOARD
1. Ronald Van der Plaat, 82, appeared for a further consideration of parole or for the setting of his final release conditions for release on his statutory release date which is 11 May 2016.
2. Mr Van der Plaat is serving a total sentence of 15 years 10 months’ imprisonment for serious sexual offending and, more recently, making an intimate visual recording.
3. The latter offending occurred when Mr Van der Plaat was on parole. He committed this offence after being released, as was the law at that time, on his then final release date of 11 February 2010.
4. Mr Van der Plaat must be released by law on his statutory release date of 11 May 2016.
5. Mr Van der Plaat was last seen by the Board on 13 November 2015. Parole was declined and he was scheduled to be seen today.
6. [Withheld] appeared today for Mr Van der Plaat.
7. [Withheld] told the Board that he has been in discussion with the Community Probation Service (“CPS”) regarding a release plan for Mr Van der Plaat. It was his submission that Mr Van der Plaat could safely be released on parole in advance of his statutory release date.
8. However while CPS have worked collaboratively with Mr Van der Plaat and his counsel, as well as [Withheld], to ensure that there is a plan in place if the Board granted Mr Van der Plaat a short period of time on parole, they also expressly said at the hearing that it would be their preference if he remained in prison until his statutory release date. They are of the view that he remains an undue risk to community safety.
9. As far as the last Board was concerned two matters required resolution in advance of the hearing today.
10. Firstly the Board required confirmation of the availability of the address in [Withheld] and its suitability for Mr Van der Plaat taking into account his age and declining health.
11. Secondly the Board wanted a further report on the suitability of the address for GPS monitoring.
12. Importantly that Board also noted that:
“The Board needs to record its observation that it is by no means clear that Mr Van der Plaat’s proposal will provide the basis for his safe return to the community.”
13. In relation to the first issue Mr Van der Plaat has now had a geriatrician assessment. We have received a letter from [Withheld] dated 10 December 2015. Mr Van der Plaat’s memory deficits were considered. It was concluded that he may have mild cognitive impairment because of the supervised environment of prison.
14. The letter notes that having been in prison for 15 years Mr Van der Plaat will have difficulty adjusting to life in the community. He may require assistance and support when he is released to [Withheld].
15. The letter confirms that Mr Van der Plaat will need to be reassessed when outside the Prison environment to be certain about his mental state, cognitive impairment affecting his function, and other matters.
16. [Withheld] submitted that it will take around three weeks to organise a needs assessment from the [Withheld] DHB. Mr Van der Plaat will need to be transferred to [Withheld] prison for this to occur.
17. On release the plan is that [Withheld], will move in with Mr Van der Plaat to ensure that he has sufficient care for as long as is required.
18. Appropriate care will then be arranged for Mr Van der Plaat depending on the outcome of the needs assessment.
19. We note that Mr Van der Plaat’s offending was described by the sentencing Judge as at the “very upper level of seriousness in terms of cases of sustained abuse to come before the court.”
20. While we do not need to repeat the extent and nature of the offending in this decision we note the Judge’s comments that:
“It was not ordinary sexual abuse but was bizarre in the extreme and can only be described as depraved.”
21. Mr Van der Plaat has continued to deny he committed the offending. That, of course, is his right. It has meant however that he had not been eligible to participate in any intensive offence focussed rehabilitation.
22. The latest psychological assessment report we have seen is dated 26 September 2014. That assesses Mr Van der Plaat’s risk of reoffending as medium high.
23. Part of the reason for that is that Mr Van der Plaat scores above the average on the psychopathy check list (PCL: SV). Specifically, interpersonal and affective deficits (i.e. superficiality, grandiosity, lack of remorse, deceitfulness etc.) contributes to his elevated PCL:SV score. These factors are considered stable and pervasive personality characteristics which are resistant to change and likely to become more fixed over time.
24. It is the view of the psychologist that Mr Van der Plaat’s progressive ageing, possible cognitive decline, consistent denial of sexual deviancy and lack of insight regarding his risk, combined with collusive social supports, hinders relapse prevention planning.
25. At that time the assessment was prepared the release to [Withheld] was not considered sufficient to mitigate his risk.\26. The main change since that assessment was completed is that [Withheld] to live with him for at least the majority of the time he is on parole conditions. [Withheld] was at the hearing today and answered questions the Board put to her.
27. CPS told the Board that [Withheld] is seen as a practical support for Mr Van der Plaat but is not seen to mitigate his risk.
28. This reflects the view of the psychologist in the 2014 assessment.
29. In the context of commenting on the desirability of a special condition restricting Mr Van der Plaat’s contact with young people to situations where there is an approved support person present the psychologist states that:
“An approved support person is someone who is fully aware of his offending, understands his risk factors and would notify probation of any concerns. [Withheld] are not considered suitable.”
30. In relation to the second issue it is confirmed that GPS monitoring is available at the address. This will be a useful tool in ensuring that Mr Van der Plaat complies with the conditions relating to his whereabouts including that he not approach, enter or remain on any premises of any place that children under 16 years of age may gather including children’s parks, schools, kindergartens, beaches, childcare centres, or libraries.
31. CPS confirmed that while GPS monitoring will assist in determining where Mr Van der Plaat is spending his time it will not indicate who he is spending time with. The psychological report says that the most likely target for Mr Van der Plaat will be vulnerable solo mothers, most likely non- European immigrants, and that he will groom their trust through offering financial, material, practical and emotional support. Future victims are likely to be their female children with Mr Van der Plaat assuming some form of caregiver role.
32. It is also clear from the information in front of the Board that age is not necessarily seen as protective in Mr Van der Plaat’s case, at least at this time.
33. Mr Van der Plaat continues to deny the index offending. He also offended on parole at the age of around 78. Although he admitted this offending it is clear that in order to commit the offending he breached a special condition of release. This was the crucial condition designed to ensure that he did not have unsupervised contact with persons under the age of 16.
34. The psychologist can only conclude that Mr Van der Plaat’s increasing physical frailty within external controls is likely to mitigate his risk of sexual recidivism “over time”. There is no evidence before the Board that we are at that point at this time.
35. Taking all of this into account we have reached the view that given Mr Van der Plaat’s continued assessed medium-high risk of sexual reoffending, and the fact that he has remained in denial and therefore has not obtained any treatment in relation to that offending, he remains an undue risk to the safety of the community.
36. We have reached this view having considered the guiding principles and the matters we are required to have regard to under the Parole Act 2002. As part of this, given the short time remaining on his sentence, we have had regard to the support and supervision available to Mr Van der Plaat following release.
37. Without the completed needs assessment Mr Van der Plaat’s full reintegrative needs remain unclear. The only named support is his [Withheld]. We share the concerns of CPS and the psychologist regarding [Withheld] ability to monitor Mr Van der Plaat’s risk or his compliance with the conditions we will impose.
38. Mr Van der Plaat has shown in the past that he either disregards or fails to remember those conditions when left to his own devices. GPS monitoring is useful to an extent but does not sufficiently address the risks of reoffending identified by the psychologist.
39. Parole is declined.
40. Mr Van der Plaat will be released on his statutory release date. We support him being transferred to a prison in [Withheld] to prepare for release and to enable the needs assessment to occur.
41. Mr Van der Plaat will be released on the standard conditions set out in section 14 of the Parole Act 2002 and on the special conditions set out below. They remain largely as contained in the parole assessment report with a few minor changes.
42. All conditions will last for six months past Mr Van der Plaat’s statutory release date.
43. We note in conclusion that the Department have advised that Mr Van Der Plaat is eligible for an extended supervision order and that the necessary health assessment has been completed. The outcome of that will be known within the next month.
44. The special conditions are:
(1) To attend and complete any programmes, treatment or counselling to the satisfaction of your Probation Officer and programme provider(s). Details of the appropriate programme to be determined by your Probation Officer.
(2) Not to undertake or attend culture, craft and creative development programmes, classes, clubs and/or such activities, without the prior written approval of your Probation Officer.
(3) To reside at [Withheld] and not to move from that address, or any subsequent approved address, without the prior written approval of a Probation Officer.
(4) Not to be found away from your approved residence between 10.00pm and 6.00am daily without the prior written approval of your Probation Officer.
(5) Not to start, terminate or change your paid or unpaid, temporary or voluntary work without the prior written approval of your Probation Officer.
(6) Not to associate or otherwise have contact with any person under 16 years of age unless under the direct supervision of an informed adult who has been approved by the Probation Officer. An informed adult is a person over the age of 20 years who is fully aware of your previous offending and high risk situations, and in the opinion of the Probation Officer, will not support or collude with any further offending.
(7) 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.
(8) Not to have in your possession or use any device capable of taking photos or recording images.
(9) Not to approach, enter or remain on, the premises of any place that children under 16 years of age may gather, or enter or remain in, any children’s park, school, kindergarten, beach, child care centre, library at all times, except with the prior written consent of your Probation Officer.
(10) You are to comply with any Health Service/General Practitioner directions including attending medical appointments and, with your consent, taking prescribed medication.
(11) To comply with the requirements of electronic monitoring and provide access to your approved residence to the Probation Officer and representative of the monitoring company for the purpose of maintaining the electronic monitoring equipment as directed by the Probation Officer.
(12) 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.
Ms K Snook