John Frederick ERICSON - 27/09/2017
Under section 21(2) of the Parole Act 2002
John Frederick ERICSON
Hearing: 27 September 2017
Members of the Board:
- Hon. M A Frater (Panel Convenor)
- Assoc. Prof. P Brinded
- Ms F Pimm
- Mr D Hauraki
Counsel: [withheld] [withheld]
In attendance: [withheld] – Corrections Psychologist
DECISION OF THE BOARD
- Fifty-five year old John Frederick Ericson is serving a life sentence of imprisonment for the savage murder of his wife on 31 July 1999 in Blenheim.
- The Board which saw him on 5 May last declined parole, saying that they did not share his optimism about his readiness for release.
- Since then, Mr Ericson has transferred back to [withheld], is residing in [withheld] unit, and is back working in the workshop at the piggery.
- The writers of both the Psychological Assessment Report and the Parole Assessment Report comment on the marked changes in his behaviour and attitude.
- The Parole Assessment Report notes that his institutional behaviour has changed significantly. He is said to be independent and displays a positive and compliant attitude. His focus has changed from his sentencing to his future and his reintegration.
- His treating psychologist also reported a considerable shift in Mr Ericson’s attitude and cognitive distortions since the last hearing. She said that he now takes responsibility for his own behaviour and has a greater understanding of others’ perspectives.
- [withheld], the writer of the Psychological Report for the Board, observed that Mr Ericson no longer perseverates on perceived injustices and, to that end, has dropped the various appeals which he had been pursuing through the Courts. He is seen as being less confrontational with others and, as a consequence, enjoys improved relationships and is involved in less conflict.
- We talked with Mr Ericson about these changes and what brought them about. He told us that through the work that he has undertaken with his treating psychologist, he has come to appreciate that in the past he has obsessively striven to prove that what he did was not murder. He now accepts that this was unhealthy. He said that he has decided that he needs to get his life on track and to move forward. He wants to be productive.
- We also talked with Mr Ericson about the impact that his offending had on members of his wife’s family and his own children and, in particular, the concerns expressed in the letter received from one of the victim’s family, a redacted copy of which was shown to him. He expressed surprise that they should be fearful of him. He said that he had never acted violently before he killed his wife, and had not acted violently since, but seemed unwilling or unable to acknowledge the brutality of his actions that night. Nor could he respond to their concerns that he had never expressed remorse.
- Mr Ericson sought to be released on parole.
- Since the last hearing, he has continued to work with [withheld] from [withheld], his Case Officer and his psychologist. [withheld] has visited him each month for between ½ to 1 hour. In total he has seen him in prison about 6 times. He was also involved in Mr Ericson’s two guided release outings into the community: one to the [withheld], the other to the library. Mr Ericson has also, recently, participated in a reintegrative meeting at the Community Probation Office in [withheld]. This gave him the opportunity to share his relapse prevention and safety plan with some of his supporters.
- [withheld] told us that the [withheld] supported accommodation service is able to offer Mr Ericson a flat, and that it is available immediately. He can remain living there for three months or slightly longer, and thereafter will continue to be supported by the Salvation Army, for as long as required.
- Mr Ericson said that he also continues to be supported by his friends, [withheld], and that [withheld] visits him most weeks in prison, although [withheld] has only been in once.
- He was asked about how he would occupy his time if he were released. His immediate plans are to come up to speed with developments in internet technology and then, in the not too distant future, to obtain work. He says that his farm boss in the prison has made contact with one or two companies who could well be willing to employ him to work on their heavy machinery, but nothing is set in concrete at this stage.
- While we have no doubt that Mr Ericson has made considerable progress in his thinking, attitude and behaviour over the past year, reflected in the fact that he has no current or pending court proceedings, this needs to be viewed in the context both of his offending and in his litigious and obsessive behaviour during the 16 or so years following the murder. As [withheld] commented in her report of 28 August, Mr Ericson’s observed changes are very recent and have yet to be tested across time and context.
- In our view, the best way of testing these would be through Release to Work, which we would support. Mr Ericson has a minimum security classification and is assessed as posing a low-risk of violent re-offending.
- He also needs to be exposed to a greater number of challenging situations and to demonstrate that he can deal with them appropriately.
- We think it is too early to be considering release. At this stage, we cannot be satisfied that his risk is other than undue. Parole is declined.
- Mr Ericson’s next hearing will be during the week beginning 3 September 2018, and must be held by the end of that month, at the latest. Once again, we make no promises as to the outcome.
- An updated Psychological Report is required for that hearing. This should comment particularly upon the way in which Mr Ericson deals with challenging situations, including what will no doubt be the disappointment of this decision. It should also address the victims concerns, noted above.
Hon. M A Frater