James Grant COOPER - 18/06/2018
Under section 21(2) of the Parole Act 2002
James Grant COOPER
Hearing: 18 June 2018
at Auckland South Corrections Facility by AVL from New Zealand Parole Board, Wellington
Members of the Board:
- Ms M Coleman – Panel Convenor
- Ms W Taumaunu
- Mr G Crowley
Counsel: Mr I Brookie
Support Persons: [withheld]
DECISION OF THE BOARD
- James Grant Cooper, who is aged 30, appeared before the Board today for further consideration of parole on a seven year three month sentence for manslaughter and obstructing or defeating the course of justice.
- Mr Cooper’s statutory release date is 6 September 2019.
- The facts of this offending are unusual. Mr Cooper got into an altercation with a friend who was living in the shed at the back of the property. Mr Cooper inflicted a fatal blow during an argument and then took steps to conceal the fact of his death.
- Mr Cooper’s sole other criminal conviction is for driving while disqualified. He has a low RoC*Rol of .16506.
- Mr Cooper was last before the Board in November 2017. Mr Cooper was seeking to be released on parole at that hearing. He was frustrated with the failure of the prison to make offence-focussed treatment available to him. The Board acknowledged the good work that Mr Cooper had done but reiterated previous Board decisions that he must complete the Medium Intensity Rehabilitation Programme (MIRP) or one to one work with a psychologist to address his offending needs. If neither of those is eligible then the Board said the prison must consider Mr Cooper’s eligibility to complete the Short Rehabilitation Programme (SRP). The Board strongly supported Mr Cooper completing either of those three interventions. It asked for a specific addendum for the next hearing to address the treatment undertaken, and provide an assessment of his risk and his release proposal.
- Mr Cooper was supported at today’s hearing by [withheld]. He was represented by Mr Brookie who filed very helpful submissions in advance of the hearing.
- Mr Brookie had taken the initiative to seek legal aid support for the provision of a psychological risk assessment. That assessment is dated 6 June 2018.
- In her report [withheld], a privately engaged psychologist, notes that treatment through a prison psychologist had commenced and a schedule of 10 fortnightly sessions was in place with an aim to complete treatment in September 2018. [withheld] further said that the treating psychologist was of the opinion that treatment would not further reduce Mr Cooper’s already low risk and could reasonably be conducted in the community. She further advised that there was a significant congruent overlap with the intended psychological treatment in the self-directed modules that Mr Cooper had completed as part of the current assessment she was undertaking. [withheld] said that she considered Mr Cooper has good insights into his offending and that his relapse prevention plan is realistic. [withheld] further says that Mr Cooper’s release and safety plan impressed as simple but realistic and adequate to manage his low risk in the community.
- The Board also received a memorandum dated 23 May 2018 from Mr Cooper’s treating psychologist. That report said that an updated psychological risk assessment would be provided closer to the time in which treatment was complete.
- The issue for the Board today therefore is whether Mr Cooper needs to complete prison based one to one rehabilitation or whether that could be continued once he was in the community.
- The Board was mindful that the risk assessment before it was that Mr Cooper could safety continue that work in the community. The Board had some concerns about the adequacy of his safety planning but decided that this was better to be completed with input from his probation officer when in the community. It noted in that regard the comment from [withheld] that Mr Cooper struggled to identify hypothetical situations he needed to cover off in his safety plan and thought, for that reason, that it would be more fruitful for him to work on this with his probation officer.
- The Board was also mindful that this is Mr Cooper’s sole offending other than one conviction for disqualified driving, and that his RoC*Rol is very low at .16506.
- The Board therefore directs Mr Cooper’s release on parole. He will be released on [withheld] July 2018. He will be subject to standard and special conditions of release for six months past his statutory release date.
- One of those conditions is that he will be subject to tightly controlled residential restrictions for at least the first three months of his release. Those restrictions will remain in place until he comes back to the Board for a face to face hearing in September 2018 and by the end of September 2018 at the latest. The Board expects by then that he will have completed his safety planning with the probation officer and he will need to discuss that with the Board at that hearing. The Board can consider then whether residential restrictions or any other form of monitored curfew would need to remain in place.
- Other conditions have also been put in place that will enable Mr Cooper to continue the psychological treatment he started in prison and which he has received three out of the 10 identified sessions to date. There are further conditions that will enable the probation officer to put in place programmes for Mr Cooper, such as a budgeting programme. He will also be required to undertake an alcohol and drug assessment. Grief counselling may also be appropriate for Mr Cooper.
- Mr Cooper was advised at today’s hearing that he will not be able to possess or consume alcohol or drugs, and that his compliance with that condition can be monitored once in the community.
- The special conditions are those set out below;
(1) To attend an alcohol and drug assessment, and attend, participate in and complete any treatment or counselling directed by a probation officer.
(2) To attend a psychological assessment and attend, participate in, and complete any recommended treatment as directed by a probation officer.
(3) To attend, participate in, and complete any other treatment or counselling as directed by a probation officer.
(4) To attend a whanau hui at an approved venue within a time frame to be determined by your probation officer.
(5) Not to possess, use, or consume alcohol, controlled drugs or psychoactive substances except controlled drugs prescribed for you by a health professional.
(6) To reside at [withheld] or any other address approved in writing by a probation officer, and not move from that address unless you have the prior written approval of a probation officer.
(7) Upon release from prison, to travel directly to [withheld] and await the arrival of a probation officer and a representative from the monitoring company.
(8) To submit to electronic monitoring as directed by a probation officer and comply with the requirements of partial residential restrictions. For three months, to remain at your approved address between the hours of 8.00pm and 6.00am daily, unless you have the prior written approval of a probation officer, or as permitted by section 33(4) of the Parole Act 2002.
(9) Not to have contact or otherwise associate, with any victim of your offending, directly or indirectly, unless you have the prior written approval of a probation officer.
(10) To comply with any direction made under section 29B(2)(b) of the Parole Act 2002 to attend a hearing at a time and place to be notified to you.
Ms M Coleman