David Charles MCSWEENEY 28/6/2021
Under section 21(2) of the Parole Act 2002
David Charles MCSWEENEY
Hearing: 28 June 2021
at Whanganui Prison via AVL from Auckland Prison
Members of the Board: Sir Ron Young (Chairperson)
Dr J Skipworth
Ms C Tiumalu
Mr P Elenio
Counsel: Mr R Chambers
DECISION OF THE BOARD
- Mr McSweeney is 69 years of age. Mr McSweeney murdered his wife in 2006, he had no other convictions. In addition to the murder, he assaulted his mother-in-law at the same time.
- We saw him last in May 2021. That was to be his first Parole Board hearing but unfortunately a report from a private psychologist (withheld) was not then available. Counsel asked that we therefore delay the hearing of the matter. We did so until today.
- Prior to the May hearing we had the opportunity of talking to Mr McSweeney's (withheld) as well as (withheld) Mr McSweeney's victim. Their submissions all had, as we explained to Mr McSweeney, a similar refrain. They all expressed concern about whether or not Mr McSweeney’s real risk had been established and whether he had had sufficient treatment.
- Mr McSweeney's (withheld) identified what they believe are his narcissistic traits and other psychological problems. They said they were all fearful of Mr McSweeney given the way in which he had treated them (withheld) which was controlling and aggressive. They talked about the fact he liked to be the centre of attention and was a very jealous person. He was manipulative and had essentially isolated (withheld) from her family. There were a number of times when they believe they had witnessed bruising on (withheld) from Mr McSweeney's violence.
- In contrast was Mr McSweeney's description of a very happy marriage only deteriorating right at the end because of difficult economic circumstances.
- Today Mr McSweeney sought parole. His counsel referred to a report by (withheld), a private psychologist who supported his release on parole. Her view was that he was of low risk of re-offending, that this was essentially a tragic one-off incident. (withheld) believed that with support in the community he could be safely released to continue his life. She said he had prosocial attitudes, a long history of prosocial work as a policeman in the community and so his risk in his view was low.
- In contrast the Correction’s psychologist raised a number of issues about the circumstances of the killing of Mr McSweeney's wife and family relationships. We had hoped the information we were provided with from Mr McSweeney’s (withheld) and (withheld) would be given to the psychological services prior to the preparation of their report. Unfortunately, that was not possible. No doubt they and (withheld), if asked to prepare a further report, will wish to take that information into account in their assessment.
- The Correction’s psychologist believes that there was significant work for Mr McSweeney to do in developing skills, relating to emotional coping, balanced thinking particularly in regard to violence.
- We questioned Mr McSweeney for some time about the circumstances that gave rise to his murder and assault. He said that it was a sudden loss of control. It did not seem to us that the facts entirely supported that assessment. Mr McSweeney had clearly been violent to his wife prior to the killing. She had obtained a protection order indicating her fear. Other family members were fearful of his aggressive conduct toward the victim and other family members.
- On the day of the killing there is evidence in the Judge's sentencing notes of Mr McSweeney undertaking some planning. He had apparently obtained a job with the SIS and was to shift to Wellington but if the protection order continued to last then Mr McSweeney would not be able to take up that position. It seems therefore he went to the business were his wife was working, in breach of the protection order, to try and convince his wife to give up the protection order. Given the past he knew from his experience that that was somewhat unlikely. He arrived at his wife’s work in another person's car. The suggestion was that this was to disguise the fact he was in the car.
- We do not now know precisely why Mr McSweeney murdered his wife. Mr McSweeney was not able to offer any real insight. However, there are the circumstances that we have described that indicate that he was frustrated with her refusal to remove the protection order and he was angry and upset at the lack of control he could exercise over the victim. As we have noted (withheld) described a long history of inappropriate control by him of family members.
- In those circumstances we favour the assessment undertaken by the Correction’s psychologist of Mr McSweeney's risk and the fact that he does need to do significant further work before he could reduce his risk below undue.
- We also invite, as we have said, the psychologists treating and reporting on risk with respect to Mr McSweeney to take into account the further information we have obtained from (withheld).
- Finally, we note Mr McSweeney told us that (withheld) was a psychologist treating him although the report we received from (withheld) appears to be a risk-based assessment. Obviously, it would be helpful if there are to be further reports that we be clear on the basis on which (withheld) is reporting and providing information to us. The report reads as if it is a risk assessment. There are self-evident risks of conflict in a treating psychologist providing risk assessment.
- We will see him again therefore by the end of June 2022. In the meantime, he remains an undue risk.
Sir Ron Young