Jeremy Hamish KERR - 12/03/2019

Parole Hearing

Under section 21(2) of the Parole Act 2002

Jeremy Hamish KERR

Hearing: 12 March 2019

At Tongariro Prison

Members of the Board:

  • Judge D Mather – Panel Convenor
  • Mr L Tawera
  • Ms F Pimm


  • Thomas Sutcliffe

Support Persons:

  • [withheld]


  1. Mr Kerr aged 63 appears for consideration of parole, following the adjournment of the initial hearing last December.
  2. He is serving a sentence of nine years nine months.  That comprises a sentence of eight years six months for blackmail, and a cumulative sentence of one year three months for possession for supply and the supply of Class C drugs.
  3. The blackmail charges arise from him sending two letters to Fonterra and Federated Farmers threatening to release 1080 contaminated dairy formula into China and advising the media.  Samples of infant formula contaminated with 1080 were enclosed and on analysis it was found that this would be fatal to infants.
  4. A huge investigation in terms of time and cost followed and Mr Kerr was in due course arrested and charged.
  5. He had been a successful business man to that point, but was under financial pressure.  He challenged the assertion that he would benefit financially if 1080 was banned.  A disputed facts hearing was held and the High Court Judge found proven beyond reasonable doubt that Mr Kerr would stand to benefit financially from the banning of 1080.
  6. Huge losses running to many million dollars were incurred by the two victim companies, and the potential threat to New Zealand’s export industry was undeniable.
  7. Having said that, the Court found that there was no evidence that Mr Kerr intended to carry out the contamination threats and the Judge also expressed the view that he did not consider that Mr Kerr presented a further risk to the community.
  8. The drug charges involved him possessing for sale and selling Class C drugs, namely BZP and TFMPP.  Search warrants for his factory units located the drugs and paraphernalia.  The Judge found that Mr Kerr was engaged in that activity for commercial gain and a cumulative sentence was accepted as appropriate.  He is recorded as having minimised his offending when being interviewed by the probation officer for the pre-sentence report.  His guilty pleas came late.
  9. At this hearing Mr Kerr accepted that the 2011 drug dealing as well as the cultivation and sale of cannabis in 2004 were for commercial gain.  Notwithstanding the High Court Judge’s finding in relation to the blackmail charges, he continues to maintain that not all relevant information was available to the Court and he still challenges the claim that he offended as he did for potential financial gain.  He understands that the Board is bound by the clear findings of the High Court.
  10. He has been assessed by a psychologist as at low risk of re-offending.  He has a low RoC*Rol.  He does not qualify for any offence-related programme although we note that he has nevertheless undertaken the Alcohol and Other Drug Brief and Intermediate Programmes.  Alcohol and drug use have not featured in his background.
  11. He has been gainfully occupied while in prison.  He has pursued his interest in supporting [withheld] in developing his business, and also preparing to operate a beekeeping business with [withheld].
  12. He has written a safety plan in which he identifies high risk situations.  It concerns us however that these do not include financial pressures which appear to have been a significant factor in all his offending.
  13. Concerns have been raised by both the psychologist and Community Corrections around his business activity proposals for the future.  We had a good deal of discussion around that at this hearing.
  14. [withheld] has a pathogen control business which is already in use by the dairy industry in New Zealand and for veterinary surgery.  Mr Kerr is researching potential commercial application of that to bees.  He is looking to get intellectual property in any application which has developed so that [withheld] can pursue that.  He does not see himself as having any active role in the business given his age and stage of life.
  15. We note that he has retained pesticide licences in New Zealand which [withheld] is managing.  There is a significant flow of royalties and other income available to Mr Kerr which he has through [withheld] outlined to the Board.
  16. Mr Kerr’s release plan is to live with [withheld].  She has been his partner for some five years but they were not living together full-time prior to his imprisonment.  She has a home which has been assessed as suitable for him on his release, and attended this hearing to support him.
  17. The Board cannot release Mr Kerr unless satisfied that no undue risk to the community would arise for the period from his release until his sentence end date.  That is a period of some six years four months.  Regard must be had to the support and supervision available to him and the public interest in his successful reintegration.
  18. At this time we are not persuaded that he has adequately understood and accepted the risks which arise from his offending, and in particular the financial gain aspect.  He needs to revise his safety plan and clarify in more detail the nature and extent of his current and proposed business activities.  Conditions can be imposed to limit the risk in that regard but at this stage we are not satisfied that adequate planning has been undertaken by Mr Kerr to mitigate risks.
  19. Accordingly, parole is declined.  We schedule Mr Kerr’s next appearance before the Board in December 2019, no later than 31 December.  He should ensure that his updated safety plan and any other supporting documents are provided to the Board in advance of that hearing.

Judge D Mather
Panel Convenor