Michael HERON 14/10/2020
Under section 21(1) of the Parole Act 2002
Hearing: 14 October 2020
at Otago Corrections Facility
by AVL from New Zealand Parole Board, Wellington
Members of the Board: Ms M Coleman (Panel Convenor), Ms S Driver, Mr C Roberts
In Attendance: (withheld) - Case Manager
DECISION OF THE BOARD
- Michael Heron, who is 48, appeared before the Board today for the first consideration of parole on a seven-year 10-month sentence for possession of methamphetamine for supply, possession of non-approved psychoactive substances and unlawful possession of firearms.
- Mr Heron's statutory release date is 2 September 2024.
- Mr Heron was deported from Australia following his release from prison on a murder charge. Like Many returning prisoners he arrived in New Zealand with no support and no real money. He did well for a period of two years but after publicity about his offending in Australia, the life he had built here, which included work and a partner fell apart. Mr Heron returned to a criminal existence which involved him running a drug dealing operation.
- Mr Heron has done well since his imprisonment. He holds a minimum-security classification. He has completed the DTP and stayed on that programme as a mentor. The report from the PCO today was a very positive one. He said that Mr Heron is well mannered and pleasant and helps staff diffuse situations in the wings.
- An override for the STURP has been approved for Mr Heron. He is due to be transferred later this month to Christchurch Men's prison to assess his suitability for that programme. Mr Heron is concerned about that. He said that he has done a number of programmes in prison in Australia that do not seem to have been taken into account in the sentence-planning to date. These include programmes in anger management, one-to-one work with psychologists, harmonisation programmes, violent offender treatment programmes and drug and alcohol programmes. He said that in prison in Australia he was nominated as student of the year. Mr Heron's concerns about the STURP are twofold. Firstly, undertaking such a programme will open up old wounds when he has already addressed the same issues that he would address in the Australian programmes and secondly that what he really needs is to be taught how to live. He has been in prison for almost all of his adult life.
- Mr Heron impressed the Board today with his desire to make changes. The Board explained that we are not in a position to assess whether the STURP is the best programme for him. All we were able to advise was that it is a programme with very good results and as part of that programme he will be given considerable reintegration support on its conclusion. Mr Heron speaks of being interested in being released to an organisation such as the (withheld). The Board agrees this would be an appropriate place for him. The question is whether he needs to do the STURP programme or some other form of intervention in the prison first.
- At this stage, the Board does not have sufficient information to be satisfied that his risk is not undue. While his index offending is of a different nature than that he was imprisoned for in Australia, nevertheless it is significant offending and in our view whether a further treatment in respect of that offending needs to be undertaken is a question are that needs to be asked and answered. For that reason, parole today is declined.
- Mr Heron will be seen again in October 2021. For that hearing the Board asks that there be a psychological assessment. The assessment should focus on the treatment gains in whatever further treatment work is undertaken along with recommendations as to the feasibility of his release plan and any recommendations as to how it could be strengthened.
- If Mr Heron does not need a programme of the intensity of the STURP, and any treatment is complete before next October, the option of applying to the Board for an earlier hearing under s 26 of Parole Act 2002 is available to him.
Ms M Coleman