Jan YORKE - 28/03/2017
Application for recall
Under section 60(1) of the Parole Act 2002
[Withheld] Delegate for The Chief Executive of the Department of Corrections - Applicant
Jan Tewaipounamuarererangi YORKE - Respondent
Hearing: 28 March 2017 At [withheld] via AVL to New Zealand Parole Board Wellington
Date of decision: 3 April 2017
Members of the Board:
- Mr N Trendle – Panel Convenor
- Ms S Pakura
- Mr A Hackney
DECISION OF THE BOARD
1. Jan Tewaipounamuarererangi Yorke is responding to an application for her recall to prison to continue serving a life sentence following her conviction for murder, attempted murder and kidnapping in 1996. Ms Yorke was released on parole on 16 November 2016.
2. The ground for the application made by the delegate of the Chief Executive is that Ms Yorke poses an undue risk to the safety of the community.
3. Ms Yorke was represented by [Withheld] who helpfully made written submissions in advance of the hearing indicating Ms Yorke’s opposition to the application. [Withheld] appeared as counsel for the applicant and also made written submissions.. [Withheld] attended as the probation officer who has the current responsibility for supervising Ms Yorke.
4. The applicant accepted Ms Yorke’s good compliance with her release conditions. The submission was made however that her lack of prosocial support and employment and in particular her return to associating with antisocial peers has escalated her risk substantially. The application also referred to the increased emotional stress that Ms Yorke appeared to be under with recent events. The applicant submitted that the above factors were identified in psychological assessments as risk factors upon Ms Yorke’s release. Reference was made to a meeting on 2 March 2017 where Ms Yorke was said to have failed to appreciate the factors that were currently putting her at risk; in particular, that she did not believe her continuing association with violent offenders increased her risk. There was also concern expressed as to Ms Yorke’s compliance with the curfew condition that was imposed by the Board at its last hearing.
5. In her written submissions, [Withheld] annexed [Withheld] report outlining conversations. Also annexed was a copy of offender notes made by her supervising probation officer. Included in an offender note of 3 March 2017 was a summary of a reintegration hui held with Ms Yorke and representatives from [withheld].
6. In making her submissions that the Board should not make a final recall order [Withheld] submitted that the ground of undue risk had not been made out. She submitted that Ms Yorke had made every effort to mitigate any risk of re-offending and when situations arose that raised issues of risk she contacted her support people. With respect to the assertion in the papers that she had been absent from the [withheld] contrary to her curfew condition [Withheld] submitted that she had not breached her curfew. This was also vehemently denied by Ms Yorke.
7. [Withheld] accepted that difficulties arose with Ms Yorke’s accommodation on the [Withheld] for the period she had lived there, but that she now has accommodation with [Withheld] until [Withheld] supported accommodation becomes available to her on 7 June 2017. Whilst the papers referred to difficulties with Ms Yorke’s interaction with staff at the [Withheld] submitted that she would work hard to restore that relationship. Ms Yorke accepted that returning to the community after 20 years in prison required a huge adjustment on her part and that the application for her recall provided a wake-up call particularly with respect to her associations.
8. The Board notes that on 3 February 2017 Ms Yorke’s probation officer, [Withheld], prepared a report for the monitoring hearing for the Board scheduled for March 2017 to consider the progress Ms Yorke had made whilst on parole. The report is generally positive. It refers to the work that she had nearly completed with the psychologist and included the comment that Ms Yorke demonstrated effective coping strategies since her release and was appropriately utilising her support system. The report refers to the nature of that support in generally positive terms. Concerns were raised, however, with respect to Ms Yorke’s contact with prisoners and released offenders. It referred to Ms Yorke writing to a number of other prisoners whilst in prison but Ms Yorke had assured her probation officer that she was no longer writing to any of the people she used to write to. Contact with three released offenders that her probation officer was aware of was referred to. The report records that her probation officer discussed this issue with her and referred to her probation officer’s advice that whilst having such associations may not lead to a non-association direction in terms of her standard parole conditions, being open in disclosing those associations allowed for discussion around potential risks and ways of dealing with them.
9. [Withheld] acknowledged that whilst the report referred to was generally positive, a number of events had occurred since its completion that reflected further enquiries made by Community Corrections. These resulted in the intel report which was annexed to her submissions, referring to Ms Yorke’s ongoing contact with [withheld]. That contact continued to 1 March 2017 and was not disclosed to either of her probation officers by Ms Yorke. Counsel also referred to the meeting on 2 March where issues with respect to Ms Yorke’s conduct on the [withheld] were discussed. The position had changed between the time the monitoring report was prepared and her recall to prison a month later.
10. The Board questioned Ms Yorke with respect to her ongoing association with current and released prisoners. With respect to two of those people, Ms Yorke provided an explanation as to meeting them on the [withheld] or elsewhere and continuing an association that had commenced in prison. With respect to a series of conversations she had with [withheld], who is a serving prisoner, Ms Yorke told the Board that she had a longstanding supportive relationship with [withheld] that began in prison. She saw that mutual support as ongoing when she left prison but had no satisfactory explanation for why she did not advise her probation officer of that association. At one point she suggested that it had been covered by her initial general disclosure that she had maintained contact with some of her past associates. Ms Yorke accepted that her release had not been without its challenges, but she had done her best.
11. In considering the information before us, the Board puts to one side three matters referred to in the applicant’s submissions as being either adequately explained, or not established. They are first, Ms Yorke’s presence at [withheld] Prison on 24 January 2017; secondly her association with a former prisoner referred to as [withheld] and thirdly, the assertion that she had breached her curfew when she was living at the [withheld].
12. In the psychological report of 23 December 2015, Ms Yorke was assessed as posing a moderate to high risk of violent re-offending. The psychologist referred to likely precipitants as including emotional stress and relationship instability, and her conception that she or others had been treated unjustly. An increase in her risk was assessed as being likely should she reconnect with criminal peers and distance herself from prosocial supports. Those precipitants had also been identified in a previous psychological assessment.
13. The Board notes a number of these risk factors were existing at the time the interim recall order was made.
14. First, there were three particular instances where Ms Yorke‘s relationships with prosocial support had broken down or been significantly compromised. First, the relationship with her employer deteriorated, resulting in Ms Yorke ceasing employment that she had begun in prison while on release to work. She then commenced personal grievance proceedings on a basis that was contested by her employer. Secondly, her request that she be reallocated another probation officer due, in part, to being challenged by her then probation officer as to her association with other offenders. Thirdly, her relationship with staff at [withheld] appears to have deteriorated to the point where at the hui with [withheld] staff she indicated her intention to distance herself from the [withheld] once she secured alternative accommodation. The notes of the meeting also refer to the “tension and subtle hostility” between Ms Yorke and attendees from the [withheld].
15. The papers also refer to Ms Yorke’s frustration with the efforts of her support network to find her accommodation when her time with [withheld] Supported accommodation ended, and her palpable distress over issues related to her temporary accommodation on the [withheld], and the employment she had been offered and undertaken at the [withheld].
16. The report to the Board prepared for her monitoring hearing referred to the probation officer’s concerns with her association with current and former prisoners. After that report had been prepared, her ongoing association with [withheld], a prisoner serving a sentence for manslaughter, was documented. In her telephone calls with [withheld], Ms Yorke referred to the contacts she had received from former [withheld] prisoners via her [Withheld]. Whilst she maintained that the relationship with [withheld] was purely one of mutual support, from the summary of the excerpts of their conversations tendered by counsel for the applicant, it did not seem to the Board to be one that a probation officer, if she or he had been aware of it, would have countenanced. Ms Yorke failed to disclose it to either of her probation officers, and when questioned about the matter at the hearing, she could not give a satisfactory explanation for that failure.
17. Having regard to the risk factors identified in the psychological report and to the material before us, the Board is satisfied that, notwithstanding the progress Ms Yorke made in some respects whilst in the community, the emergence of those risk factors combined to produce a situation where her release on parole was no longer viable. We are satisfied that she then posed an undue risk to the safety of the community.
18. Whilst we have concluded that the ground for her recall has been made out, we have nevertheless given consideration to whether, coupled with enhanced release conditions, she presently has a release proposal that is sufficiently robust to manage her level of risk. Reference was made at the hearing to the availability of accommodation with [withheld], who knew Ms Yorke well. Community Corrections indicated that they had not had the opportunity to fully explore that proposal, and offered the tentative view that there may be conflict issues having regard to [withheld] current role. While we note the availability in June of [withheld] supported accommodation, and that elements of her support base remain, we have concluded, by a significant margin, that the level of support available to her at present would not sufficiently mitigate her risk to the safety of the community to allow us to exercise our discretion not to make a final recall order.
19. Significant work is required on Ms Yorke’s part to re-establish a network that will provide her with the ongoing pro-social support she will require when she returns to the community. Whether she will be able to renew her relationship with [withheld] remains to be seen. Her prospects of employment will also be a factor. So too will Ms Yorke need to satisfy the Board that she is committed to more open and honest communication with her probation officer.
20. A final recall order is made. Ms Yorke will be seen by the Extended Board next in three months’ time, by 30 June 2017. For that hearing the Board would be assisted by a psychological addendum.
Mr N Trendle