John Frederick ERICSON - 05/09/2018
Under section 21(2) of the Parole Act 2002
John Frederick ERICSON
Hearing: 5 September 2018
at Christchurch Men’s Prison
via AVL from New Zealand Parole Board, Wellington
Members of the Board:
- Mr N Trendle – Panel Convenor
- Judge C Blackie
- Ms F Pimm
- Assoc Prof. P Brinded
- Mr M Starling
- Ms N Wham
DECISION OF THE BOARD
- John Frederick Ericson was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of his wife on 19 April 2000. He was subsequently sentenced to a concurrent term of 18 months imprisonment for escaping from custody and possessing an offensive weapon when he absconded while working in the prison gardens outside the wire in 2007. He became eligible for parole on 31 July 2009 but at previous hearings the Board has not been satisfied that his release would not pose an undue risk to the safety of the community.
- Since June 2010, Mr Ericson has held a minimum security classification and he has been, for some time, engaged in reintegration activities. Since he last appeared before the Board, he has commenced Release to Work and completed six guided release escorted outings. There have been no incidents and Mr Ericson’s conduct and compliance has been above reproach. The psychological assessment completed in July assessed Mr Ericson as posing a low risk of re-offending.
- Mr Starling appeared as counsel and made submissions in support of Mr Ericson’s release on parole. He confirmed to the Board the information we had received as to the availability of [withheld] supported accommodation and the ongoing support of the [withheld] Reintegration Service. His full-time work with an engineering company on Release to Work has developed into an early offer of full-time employment which Mr Ericson had accepted. Counsel referred to the positive psychological report and that the one session with the psychologist since the Board’s last hearing simply required an updating of his safety plan. Mr Starling also pointed to the absence of any concerns arising from the release proposal feasibility assessment as undertaken by the psychologist.
- A number of treatment needs were identified by the psychologist in Mr Ericson’s first assessment report for the Board. He was then assessed as being at moderate risk of further violent offending. While he pleaded guilty to his crime, subsequent reflection led Mr Ericson to form the view that he was not culpable for his wife’s death. That posed its own challenges for him so far as rehabilitation interventions were concerned. He was unable to identify the factors that precipitated his offending or articulate strategies to avoid further acts of violence. Moreover, his continuing preoccupation with various legal actions and what a psychologist described as his complex interpersonal style posed responsivity barriers to his progress.
- For a number of reasons Mr Ericson has not engaged in group-based rehabilitation activities. He completed the Short Motivational Programme and subsequently engaged in a series of individual treatment sessions with a psychologist over 16 months. That treatment led to a shift in his attitude and a reduction in his cognitive distortions. It was also reflected in a reduction in his offence-paralleling behaviour. He is now assessed as being at low risk of violent or general offending.
- Mr Ericson saw his main risk on release as involving intimate relationships. Though it was the last thing on his mind at this point, he told us he would willingly keep his probation officer informed of any such relationships should they develop to ensure they were properly managed. With reference to the Board’s earlier concerns, with respect to his ongoing propensity to question decisions that he did not agree with, Mr Ericson emphasised that once he is released from prison he is determined to “move on” and put the past behind him. In his safety plan, Mr Ericson outlined his support base for when he returns to the community. It is somewhat thin, but he will be supported by a number of professionals. The Board regards his full-time employment offer as a major protective factor. It is clear to us that it has assisted Mr Ericson in viewing his future somewhat more positively than he did even 12 months ago. He seems to have a solid plan around continuing to work with a supportive employer.
- Taking all matters into consideration, the Board is satisfied that Mr Ericson’s release plan, the support available to him in the community and parole conditions will adequately manage his risk to the safety of the community if he were to be released. Accordingly, we direct his release on parole on 24 September 2018. Thereafter, he will be on standard conditions for life and the special conditions set out below for a period of five years. One of those conditions requires Mr Ericson not to use possess or consume alcohol or illicit drugs. He is aware that he will be subject to the statutory drug and alcohol testing regime, and may be required to submit to drug and alcohol testing or monitoring at any time by a probation officer or a police officer.
- We have also imposed a condition that, if directed, Mr Ericson is to attend a monitoring hearing in January 2019. For that hearing, the Board requests a report from his supervising probation officer as to his compliance with release conditions and his general progress on parole. If, after viewing that report, the Board requires Mr Ericson to personally attend the hearing, he will receive the appropriate direction. We impose that condition, having regard to the seriousness of his offending and the length of time Mr Ericson has been in prison, coupled with a relatively short reintegration process within the community. The Board needs to be satisfied that the conditions imposed are managing his risk and being complied with.
- We have also imposed a condition that Mr Ericson is subject to a curfew for the first three months from the date of his release. That is imposed to assist in providing structure around the transition period with Mr Ericson returning to the community.
- Release accordingly. Special conditions as follows:
(1) Undertake and complete any treatment or counselling directed by a Probation Officer, to the satisfaction of the Probation Officer.
(2) Attend for a psychological assessment and complete any treatment or counselling recommended by the assessment to the satisfaction of a Probation Officer.
(3) To reside at an address approved by a Probation Officer, and not move from that address unless you have the prior written approval of a Probation Officer.
(4) For three months from the date of your release, not to be away from your approved residence between the hours of 10:00pm and 5:00am daily, unless you have the prior written approval of a Probation Officer.
(5) Not to possess or consume alcohol or use controlled drugs or psychoactive substances other than controlled drugs prescribed for you by a doctor.
(6) Not to have contact or otherwise associate with the family of the victim of your offending, directly or indirectly, unless you have the prior written approval of a Probation Officer.
(7) To disclose to a Probation Officer, at the earliest opportunity, details of any intimate relationship which commences, resumes, or terminates.
(8) 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.
Mr N Trendle