Dr Paul Quentin WOOD 4/9/2020
Application for discharge of conditions – parole
Under section 56(1) of the Parole Act 2002
Dr Paul Quentin WOOD
Department of Corrections
Hearing: 4 September 2020
at Wellington Community Corrections via AVL to New Zealand Parole Board Offices, Wellington
Members of the Board: Sir Ron Young (Chairperson), Associate Professor P Brinded, Dr Greg Coyle, Mr B McMurray
In Attendance: Ms S Gapes (Probation Officer)
Counsel: Ms J Fyfe (Counsel for Applicant)
Mr D Neild (Counsel for Respondent)
Support People: (withheld)
Date of reserved decision: 8 September 2020
RESERVED DECISION OF THE BOARD
- Dr Paul Quentin Wood was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder in 1996. He was released on parole on 2 October 2006, now some 14 years ago.
- His special conditions of parole have now well expired.
- Dr Wood now applies for a discharge of all of his standard release conditions. The Board has two questions to answer. Firstly, does the Board have jurisdiction to discharge all of the special conditions. Secondly, if it does, are these the appropriate circumstances in which to do so.
- We are satisfied the Board does have jurisdiction to discharge his special conditions.
- Section 29 of the Parole Act 2002 is concerned with standard release conditions. Standard release conditions apply to every offender who is released on parole whether subject to a determinate or indeterminate sentence (sub-section (1)).
- Section 29(4)(b) provides as follows:
“In the case of an offender who is subject to an indeterminate sentence, for the rest of the offender’s life, unless the release conditions are varied or discharged by the Board under section 58.”
- That section was introduced as a result of a 2015 amendment to the Parole Act.
- Section 58(1) of the Act provides as follows:
“On an application under section 56, the Board may direct the variation or discharge of any release condition imposed by the Board that applies to an offender.”
- Also relevant is section 58(3) of the Act.
“The Board may not discharge the standard release conditions with effect from a date that is less than six months after the date on which the offender was released, unless the offender is released on compassionate release or was, at the time of his or her release, detained in a hospital or in a secure facility.”
- The six-month condition in sub-section (3) is now well passed for Dr Wood.
- Section 58(4) provides that once the Board directs the discharge of a condition that takes effect on the date specified in the direction (section 58(4)).
- The authorisation itself for an application for a discharge of release conditions, whether special or standard, is provided for in section 56(1) of the Act.
- Previously, there has been doubt about whether standard release conditions are in fact release conditions imposed by the Board and therefore whether they are susceptible to an application under section 56 and whether the Board could grant such an application under section 58. However, again an amendment to the Parole Act 2002 in 2015 cleared up that concern.
- Section 14(4) of the Parole Act provides as follows:
“For the purposes of any provision of this Act relating to the imposition of standard release conditions, those conditions must be treated as if they were imposed by the Board.”
- We are satisfied that pursuant to section 56 therefore, an offender can apply to discharge any standard conditions. The Board can, pursuant to section 58 determine such an application and finally, pursuant to section 29, the Board can discharge such standard conditions, pursuant to an order under section 58.
- Finally, for the sake of completeness, we mention section 31, which could be thought to limit the circumstances under which a release condition of an offender on parole can be discharged. We are satisfied that section 31 does not limit the capacity of the Board to discharge a standard release condition. We are satisfied that that power has been specifically given by Parliament pursuant to section 29(4)(b) by virtue of the 2015 amendment.
Should we discharge the standard conditions?
- Having concluded therefore that the Board does have jurisdiction to grant an application for discharge of the standard conditions, the question is whether or not in Dr Wood’s circumstances it is appropriate to do so.
- Section 7 of the Parole Act identifies undue risk as the primary focus of the Board in considering release. Section 28 provides that the Board can direct that an offender be released on parole only if it is satisfied on reasonable grounds that an offender, if released on parole, will not pose an undue risk to the safety of the community. In making that assessment one of the factors that the Board is entitled to take into account is the support and supervision available to the offender following release. An essential part of support and supervision available to an offender following a release relates to the release conditions, including the standard release conditions. Their purpose is to provide support for and supervision of an offender following release.
- In assessing whether or not it is appropriate to discharge standard conditions, we would need to be satisfied that an offender no longer requires support and supervision following release, and without that support we would need to be satisfied that an offender would not pose an undue risk to the safety of the community.
- We are satisfied in Dr Wood’s case that the standard release conditions may now be discharged. We are satisfied without those conditions he is not an undue risk. In doing so we recognise the extraordinary efforts made by Dr Wood both in prison prior to his release and subsequent to his release.
- When Dr Wood was released in 2006, in addition to the standard release conditions he had special conditions relating to residence, attending psychological assessment and counselling as directed, attending alcohol and drug counselling and any other counselling and treatment as directed and undertaking employment related training as directed.
- Since his release on parole Dr Wood has complied well with both his standard and special conditions. He successfully completed an intervention with Care New Zealand for alcohol and drug use upon release. He completed 15 treatment sessions with a Departmental psychologist. The treatment report concluded that no further intervention was required. Dr Wood has not been charged with or convicted of any offences since release, nor has he breached any of the standard or special conditions in the last 14 years.
- In 2014 Dr Wood relocated to Wellington. There was one incident of concern in 2015 where there was a public argument between Dr Wood and his then partner, now wife. There was no suggestion of any violence nor was Dr Wood spoken to by the police as the aggressor in the incident. Since that episode, Dr Wood and his now wife, have had an intervention from two psychologists. Dr Wood is now married, resides with his wife and his two children.
- Corrections have subsequently interviewed Dr Wood’s wife and father; both are confident that Dr Wood has “totally turned himself around” in his stable personal life and a successful work life.
- In 2011 Dr Wood successfully gained a PhD in Psychology. He is self-employed and runs a coaching business. He has a good support network, a family and pro-social friends. Dr Wood has been granted permission from time to time to travel overseas for personal and professional reasons by his probation officer. On every occasion Dr Wood has complied with the permission and directions and returned without difficulty.
- Given the extensive support Dr Wood now enjoys in the community, given his successful reintegration into life in New Zealand, we are satisfied that there is no longer any need for him to be subject to standard conditions of parole. In our view, they do not provide any additional protection relating to his risk.
- The application is therefore granted. The standard conditions will be discharged on Monday 14 September 2020.
Sir Ron Young