Michelle NICHOLSON - 30/05/2019

Parole Hearing

Under section 21(2) of the Parole Act 2002

Michelle Elizabeth Ann NICHOLSON

Hearing: 30 May 2019

at Arohata Prison via AVL to Christchurch Men’s Prison

Members of the Board:

  • Mr N Trendle – Panel Convenor
  • Mr J Thomson
  • Assoc Prof. P Brinded


  • Ms J Fyfe


  • [withheld]
  • [withheld]
  • [withheld]
  • [withheld]


  1. Michelle Nicholson is serving a life sentence for murder imposed on 24 July 1997.  Since then she has been released twice and recalled twice, the last occasion on 8 February 2016. Since that recall, Ms Nicholson has completed the Drug Treatment Programme and that some 19 sessions of offence-focused individual treatment with a psychologist. She also however took a step back incurring an IDU [identified drug user] status after using methamphetamine some two years ago.  She has since completed further drug and alcohol counselling and progressed to the self-care units. Ms Nicholson completed a number of guided releases to attend AA meetings and a number of shopping trips.
  2. Ms Fyfe appeared as counsel and made submissions in support of Ms Nicholson's release on parole.  Ms Fyfe referred to Ms Nicholson's release proposal to attend the residential [withheld] programme to facilitate her transition to the community.  She had been accepted onto that programme in June.  Moreover, Ms Nicholson had a strong and ongoing support network. She had participated in a reintegration meeting, the minutes of which were available. She and her support network were well aware of the background that led to her relapse and her support network clearly understood her warning signs should a relapse be imminent. Ms Fyfe explained that Ms Nicholson had essentially gone through a deconstruction process but responded well to what she described was the peeling back of the layers that often were concerned with her deception of others.  As Ms Fyfe submitted she now was well aware of being truthful to both her supporters and to herself.
  3. Ms Nicholson explained the importance to her of reintegration through a residential drug and alcohol programme. Thereafter she was proposing to live with [withheld] whom she had known for some five years.  He now formed part of her support group and equally has aware of her safety plan.
  4. The Board notes the rehabilitation activities undertaken by Ms Nicholson since her recall to prison.  She has a strong support network, but as the psychologist and previous Board decisions have noted, her apparent ability to manipulate others and deceive them as to her well-being remains an issue. Ms Fyfe nevertheless submitted that she has endeavoured to grapple with those issues with the professionals with whom she is working and Ms Nicholson's own understanding of the absolute necessity of being open and transparent with her support network on release.
  5. The Board has given careful thought to the submissions made on the half of Ms Nicholson.  We acknowledge the strength of her support network and the plan going forward with a release to the [withheld] programme. Thereafter her plan to live with [withheld] seems less than compelling, as she told us they had essentially passed the time of day as neighbours for much of the time she has known him.
  6. As she had on the last two occasions she was before the Board, Ms Nicholson repeated that she “had changed”. Having regard to her history, the Board looked for other support for that assertion.  One option was for a period of testing through release to work for which she now qualified.   On balance however, we have come to the view that Ms Nicholson has engaged in sufficient rehabilitation activities to equip her with the skills that, if she chooses to use them, will be sufficient to mitigate her risk to the safety of the community. In particular, we have had regard to her transition through the [withheld] programme and the ongoing availability of drug and alcohol counselling through [withheld].  We note also the continuing support of those who attended the hearing today and others who have worked with her.
  7. Accordingly, we direct Ms Nicholson’s release on parole on [withheld] June 2019 to attend the [withheld] residential drug and alcohol programme.
  8. Ms Nicholson will be subject to standard conditions for life and the special conditions set out below her for a period of five years. except for the condition with respect to abstaining from using or possessing alcohol, controlled drugs or psychoactive substances will remain in force for life.
  9. Ms Nicholson will be subject to a condition that she attend the Board for a monitoring hearing in September 2019. For that purpose, the Board requests a report from her probation officer as to her compliance with release conditions and her progress on parole. We impose a condition having regard to the two previous recalls and the need for the Board to be satisfied that Ms Nicholson is complying with her release conditions, particularly those with respect to drug and alcohol use.
  10. Ms Nicholson is also aware that she will be subject to drug and alcohol had testing pursuant to the current statutory regime and may be required to undertake drug and alcohol testing or monitoring at the direction of a probation officer or another authorised officer at any time.
  11. Her special release conditions are as follows:

    (1) To attend and complete residential treatment at [withheld] to the satisfaction of a Probation Officer.

    (2) To reside at [withheld] or any other address approved in writing by a Probation Officer, and not to move from that address unless you have prior written approval of a Probation Officer.

    (3) Not to possess, use or consume alcohol, controlled drugs or psychoactive substances except controlled drugs prescribed for you by a health professional.

    (4) To obtain the prior written approval of a Probation Officer before starting or changing your position or place of employment {including voluntary and unpaid work). To notify a Probation Officer if you leave your position of employment.

    (5) To attend reintegration support meetings as directed by a Probation Officer.

    (6) Not to have contact or otherwise associate with the victims of your offending either directly or indirectly unless you have the prior written approval of a Probation Officer.

    (7) Not to have contact or otherwise associate with your co-offender directly or indirectly unless you have the prior written approval of a Probation Officer.

    (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
Panel Convenor