Litia VUNIDUVU 4/11/2021
Under section 21(2) of the Parole Act 2002
Hearing: 04 November 2021
at Auckland Regional Women’s Correction Facility by Videoconference.
Members of the Board: Ms M Coleman – Panel Convenor
Ms. M Kleist
Counsel: Tim Blackwell
In Attendance: (withheld) - Case Manager
DECISION OF THE BOARD
- Litia Vuniduvu, who is 41, appeared before the Board today for further consideration of parole on a three-year sentence for taking or using a document for pecuniary advantage.
- Ms Vuniduvu was in a relationship with the co-offender. In sentencing the judge said that both she and the co-offender took substantial steps to conceal the offending. The money gained from the offending went into an account in her name and she was the principal beneficiary of it.
- Ms Vuniduvu’s statutory release date is 21 March 2022.
- Ms Vuniduvu was last before the Board in March 2021. It noted at that time that she was facing further charges, which her counsel today has said have been dealt with. She was also appealing against her sentence which is still the case today. The Board also noted that she was in discussions with Immigration New Zealand around an appeal against her deportation status. The Board hoped that once these hurdles were sorted she could undertake the Kowhiritanga Programme which is on her sentence plan and which it said she was motivated to do.
- Unfortunately, those matters have not been sorted and she has not been able to undertake the Kowhiritanga Programme. This means that she has not received any treatment for the very serious offending that has brought her to prison.
- An additional hurdle today was that the address that she is proposing, with the mother of a (withheld), may not be able to offer her accommodation beyond the end of the year as there is a possibility that she is selling the house. We are advised that (withheld) who is offering accommodation has never met Ms Vuniduvu and therefore in our view her level of support is untested. While Mr Blackwell, who represented her at today's hearing spoke of support also from (withheld) and (withheld), there is no indication before the Board as about whether either address would be seen as suitable. We were also unclear why Ms Vuniduvu sought accommodation from a stranger rather than family in the first place which would need to be explored.
- All this means that Ms Vuniduvu is in a precarious situation regarding any release on parole, as she has no right to reside in New Zealand and, therefore, no right to work or to income support. We were advised that her family would financially provide for her. However, when asked about the level of financial support, Ms Vuniduvu spoke about only needing to have around $50 a week or indeed a fortnight, which to the Board appeared somewhat unrealistic. We were left with the impression that there have been no concrete discussions around the level of financial support her family would provide.
- In addition, the Board is concerned Ms Vuniduvu has not undertaken any programmes in prison to reduce her risk of re-offending. While she may not be eligible because she is exercising her right to appeal both conviction and sentence, that does not alter the fact that no treatment has been undertaken and no safety plan was presented to the Board for it to consider. Her statutory right to appeal does not extend to being released on parole without any reduction in risk because rehabilitation has not been available to her as a consequence of the exercise of that right. Further, in our view, release to a situation of financial instability will increase rather than decrease her risk of reoffending.
- For all those reasons, parole today is declined.
- The Board had made its decision to decline parole and was about to deliver that decision when Mr Blackwell asked the Board for an adjournment to have further the addresses checked for suitability. That request was declined. Our reasons are these.
- Ms Vuniduvu is facing deportation. She was served with that order in 2018. She is well out of time in which to file an appeal and would now need leave to do so. As far as the Board is aware, no concrete steps to file an application for leave to appeal out of time have been made. We are advised by Mr Blackwell that she does not have counsel representing her on the immigration matter but is handling it herself. Ms Vuniduvu’s approach at the hearing today appeared predicated on an understanding she was not able to be deported. As far as the Board is aware, that is not the case. Without an appeal against deportation on foot, it is difficult to understand on what basis the Board could or should have ignored the deportation order she is subject to. Ms Vuniduvu is not in the same situation as others during this pandemic who are unable to be paroled for the purposes of deportation even though they no longer pose an undue risk to the safety of the community. In our view, for the reasons already given, Ms Vuniduvu’s risk remains undue.
- Ms Vuniduvu will be seen again in February 2022.
Ms M Coleman