John Harold LA ROCHE - 31/08/2017

Parole Hearing

Under section 21(2) of the Parole Act 2002

John Harold LA ROCHE

Hearing: 31 August 2017

At (withheld) via AVL from New Zealand Parole Board, Head Office, Wellington

Members of the Board:

  • Alan Ritchie (Panel Convenor)
  • Assoc. Prof. P Brinded
  • Mr B McMurray
  • Mr L Tawera

In attendance: [withheld] – Corrections Psychologist

Counsel: [withheld]


  1. John Harold La Roche, 72, has appeared for the further consideration of parole on his life sentence for the murder of his former partner in 1998.
  2. The prison security classification is minimum and the RoC*RoI .11962.
  3. This case has some highly complicating factors not least Mr La Roche’s view that he was poisoned by paroxetine at the time of the murder with that drug having been earlier prescribed to him for depression.
  4. On 27 January 2015 the Board said Mr La Roche had not addressed the causes of his offending and refused to do so.  It noted his resistance to psychological intervention but with psychiatric intervention not being supported by forensic services.
  5. That last Board made a three year postponement order and asked for a brief updating forensic report for this hearing.  It said it was not seeking an independent psychiatric report.
  6. We do not in fact have any report from psychiatric services.  We do have a note which indicates that a psychiatrist was to see Mr La Roche but for some reason that has not yet happened.
  7. We do have an addendum psychological report which comments in some considerable detail about Mr La Roche’s presentation including what was described as a highly distorted version of events in explanation for his behaviour including minimising the impact of his offending on the victim’s children.  He was continuing to blame alternately the prescribed use of and the discontinuation of (withheld) at the time of the offending.
  8. The Psychologist had explained that treatment in prison was offending-focussed rather than mental health focussed and it was noted that specific diagnostic terms had been applied to his presentation during previous assessments.  Following that explanation Mr La Roche is said to have expressed some willingness to engage in offence-focussed rehabilitation. However, on learning the length of time a preferred rehabilitation pathway could take, he reported unwillingness.
  9. Overall the psychologist considered Mr La Roche to be at moderate/high risk of further general offending including violence.
  10. The psychologist also noted that Mr La Roche’s previous psychological assessments had each noted significant responsivity barriers not least of which being a lack of consistent motivation to address offending related rehabilitation needs.
  11. A potential override to the Special Treatment Unit Rehabilitation Programme had been discussed with a senior programme staff member and a referral to the programme was said to remain inappropriate for several reasons including Mr La Roche’s ongoing problematic personality functioning, his use of unhelpful strategy for managing significant stressors, limited motivation and his advanced age, alongside ongoing health concern likely to interrupt his ability to engage fully.
  12. The conclusion of the psychologist was that individual offence-focussed treatment with a departmental psychologist would be of insufficient intensity to address what are complex rehabilitation needs.  The psychologist added that should the situation appear to change then the case manager could contact the local principal psychologist to discuss a referral.
  13. It seemed to us that Mr La Roche was ill-equipped to be discussing his situation with a Board without some legal assistance.  He told us of his efforts to secure a lawyer but they seemed focussed on establishing his lack of culpability for the index offending rather than on the essential issue of risk with which we must be concerned.  He told us that he cannot find a lawyer now to advance any sort of appeal.  Nevertheless we would hope that the case manager might be able to assist Mr La Roche with a referral to the Legal Services Agency or Public Defence Service so that Mr La Roche can receive appropriate assistance.
  14. At the very least a lawyer could explain to Mr La Roche the essential role of the Parole Board as opposed to the role of the Courts or other authority.
  15. When it was noted that a psychiatrist from forensic services was scheduled to see him, Mr La Roche suggested that his case be stood down for a period so that that could occur.
  16. We have considered that and the need for appropriate legal assistance and we have decided to reschedule Mr La Roche to be seen again in May 2018.
  17. For that hearing we would hope to see a completed report from the forensic psychiatrist as requested by the last Board and we would also require an addendum psychological assessment.  We note in that latter regard the psychologist’s recommendation for referral to a Principal Psychologist should there be any change in Mr La Roche’s presentation.
  18. In the meantime there is no basis on which the Board can be satisfied that risk is other than undue and Parole is declined.
  19. The hearing next year will be by the end of May 2018 at the latest.

Alan Ritchie
Panel Convenor