Jordan NELSON - 04/04/2018
Under section 21(1) of the Parole Act 2002
Hearing: 4 April 2018
at Hawke’s Bay Regional Prison
Members of the Board:
- Hon M A Frater – Panel Convenor
- Dr G Coyle
- Mr D Hauraki
Counsel: Mr M Phelps
Support Person: [withheld]
DECISION OF THE BOARD
- On 15 April 2012, Jordan Nelson shot Rosemaree Kurth in the back of the head and killed her. He then dragged her body into another room, shut the door, stole money and a car and drove into Waitara, where he was apprehended. Ms Kurth’s partner, Mr Lock, found her body.
- Mr Nelson was 13 when he committed this terrible crime. He is now 19.
- He pleaded guilty to Ms Kurth’s murder, but was not sentenced to life imprisonment. In the light of his culpability and having regard to his age, his brain development and his personal circumstances, the sentencing Judge concluded that it would be “manifestly unjust” to do so. Instead, he sentenced Mr Nelson to a finite term of 18 years imprisonment, with no minimum non-parole period.
- Mr Nelson was sentenced on 20 December 2012. He becomes eligible to be released on parole on the 17th of this month and his sentence ends on 15 April 2030.
- We have seen him today because we were obliged to do so. He did not seek parole. He accepts that he has more work to do before that is a realistic possibility.
- His victims, of whom there are many, oppose Mr Nelson’s release at this stage of his sentence.
- We have received written submissions from [withheld]. We also met with [withheld] this morning. Mr Nelson has been given the opportunity to read all these submissions. He is aware of the ongoing effect of his offending on the victims and their families. He said he did not think of the consequences of his actions. He cannot explain why he did what he did. He wants help with that process. The best explanation he could give was that, at the time, he was not disciplined. He went from having no discipline when living with his mother, to living with Ms Kurth and Mr Lock, who tried to set boundaries. He said he was immature. He did not like being told, “no”. He had been suspended from school for using and dealing in drugs. He accepts that, at the time, he did not feel or demonstrate any remorse. He said it took him more than a year to begin thinking of others. He has had no help with that process. He has been trying to work it out himself.
- Mr Nelson is currently housed in Hawke’s Bay Regional Prison. He spent three years and 16 days in the Youth Justice Unit in Rotorua. Then, at the beginning of January 2016, he moved to the Youth Offenders Unit at Hawke’s Bay. He is now housed in Te Whare Tirohanga Māori – the Maori Focus Unit.
- He has a RoC*RoI score of 0.99324 and has held a low security classification since August last year.
- Mr Nelson has made considerable progress since being in custody. He acknowledged that, at the beginning, he was “troubled”. He is now described as being “compliant and courteous” and having “great leadership skills”. He has fortunate to have been offered great support and opportunities. In the Youth Unit, he was involved with students both from the unit and a local secondary school in the Young Enterprise programme. His team won a number of awards. He has also been involved with other young offenders in the Duke of Edinburgh scheme. So far he has received his bronze award. He is now working towards the silver.
- He is deeply involved in Tikanga Maori and speaks Te Reo fluently. He is an accomplished carver and mentors offenders in the Youth Unit in Tikanga and kapa haka.
- He has used his time in custody to acquire over 130 NCEA unit standards. He has achieved NCEA levels 1 and 2 and hopes to attain level 3 so that, eventually, he can attend a tertiary institution. He works in the external grounds party and is said to have a strong work ethic.
- He is supported by [withheld], who came back into his life after he was incarcerated. Before that, a restraining order prohibited [withheld] from doing so. They correspond and speak on the phone regularly. [withheld] also visits him and [withheld] have offered to accommodate him at their home in [withheld], following release.
- But that is some time off.
- Mr Nelson has been assessed as posing a medium to high risk of violent re-offending. He has yet to engage in therapy specifically addressing the circumstances surrounding the murder of his caregiver and related trauma. The psychologist who wrote the report for the Board said that although Mr Nelson has done exceedingly well in custody, there is no certainty about his ability to manage future interpersonal conflict outside the highly structured and familiar custodial environment. He needs to be tested. However, before that can happen, he needs intensive rehabilitation.
- Because of his age, Mr Nelson cannot undertake any group programmes. And that would not be advisable anyway. We support his participation in regular psychological counselling and, in due course, his participation in the Special Treatment Unit Rehabilitation Programme, if deemed appropriate. Once he has completed those interventions to a satisfactory standard, it may well be that he is able to engage in reintegrative activities such as living in a self care unit, participating in release to work and, perhaps, spending some time in Te Whare Oranga Ake. We see all these as relevant activities which, for the purposes of section 21A of the Parole Act 2002, we expect to be completed prior to his next appearance before the Board.
- Today parole is declined.
- Mr Nelson’s next hearing will be in March 2020, before the Extended Board, and must be held by the 31st of that month, at the latest.
- An updated psychological assessment report is required for that hearing. As well as reassessing his risk and making recommendations as to further interventions, whether in custody or the community, we expect the report to include an assessment of Mr Nelson’s release plan.
Hon M A Frater