Scott WATSON 30/11/2021
Under section 21(2) of the Parole Act 2002
Hearing: 30 November 2021
at Christchurch Men’s Prison via Video conference
Members of the Board: Sir Ron Young – Chairperson
Mr A Hackney
Associate Prof. P Brinded
Counsel: Mr K Cook
In Attendance: Ms M Naera - Case Manager
Mr K Byer – New Zealand Herald
Mr C Young – Radio New Zealand
Support Persons: (withheld)
DECISION OF THE BOARD
- Mr Watson is 50 years of age. He was sentenced to life imprisonment for two charges of murder in 1999. He had four pages of previous convictions, mostly property offending and drug offending with some limited violence prior to these convictions.
- We saw him last in December 2020. At that stage he had made very little progress in addressing his risk of reoffending. He was assessed then at being a very high risk of re-offending. He denied his offending and he sought parole.
- Corrections then offered Mr Watson an opportunity to identify his treatment needs and to begin some form of treatment. It was agreed that there would be some further sessions with a psychologist essentially to see where that might lead to in terms of rehabilitation.
- As to the position today, counsel sought parole. He said that Mr Watson's risk was less than undue because of the following factors:
(1) He had behaved well in prison. There were some misconducts earlier in his prison sentence, some still disputed by Mr Watson, but for many years he had behaved positively in prison and was now at minimum security classification.
(2) He had a very supportive prosocial family with a good release address available.
(3) He had employment in the community, and he had, by his actions in prison, shown that he could hold down a job and work with others.
(4) He could be subject to tight electronic monitoring and other special conditions of parole that would ensure the communities safety.
(5) It was submitted that those factors together could satisfy the Board that Mr Watson would no longer be an undue risk.
- Today, we had the advantage of a psychological report from Corrections as well as a Parole Assessment Report. The psychological report noted that Mr Watson has limited awareness of his and others' emotions. He has a high psychopathy score. The psychologist confirmed Mr Watson's good conduct within the prison. He was co-operative and had a good work ethic. At times he could have a sense of entitlement if he did not get his own way, but these were not major concerns.
- The issue for the psychologist, and it is the core issue for us, arises from the fact that Mr Watson has had no risk-based treatment focusing on his offending. As the psychologist said, Mr Watson killed two vulnerable young people. There was a possibility raised and references in Court of Appeal judgements relating to Mr Watson that the offending may have been sexually motivated. These were therefore very unusual and very serious criminal offences. And so, the treatment response required an equally substantial intervention. To assess risk and provide rehabilitative treatment there needed to be a full understanding of the facts that gave rise to the offending, the reasons why Mr Watson offended, and an understanding of the drivers of his offending in detail. Once that was achieved then work could begin on the risks that arose from an understanding of the offending.
- None of that work has been undertaken. As a result, Mr Watson really remains someone, as the psychologist said, “capable of the callous and calculated murder of two strangers without any form of risk-based rehabilitation”. We agree with that assessment. That assessment is at the core of our view that he remains an undue risk. We do not think that the plan proposed by Mr Watson addresses that core risk at all.
- We appreciate that Mr Watson has behaved well within the prison and such behaviour at times, can be some indication of good conduct out of prison. However, it is of modest value compared with the untreated risk we have identified.
- We accept that he has a supportive family, but their support and their oversight is also limited. They take the view that he has been wrongly convicted. Mr Watson does not have a safety plan. He has not identified his high-risk situations and so the family cannot be informed of those high-risk situations so that they can keep an eye on Mr Watson’s conduct informed by his high risks. While we accept that the family will do their best, their best will inevitably be limited by the lack of a proper safety plan and a lack of risk-based rehabilitation.
- For the reasons we have given, we are satisfied Mr Watson remains an undue risk. Currently there does not seem to be any obvious way forward for Mr Watson but we leave that to him and Corrections to work through. We will see him again therefore in just under two years by the end of October 2023.
- For the next hearing we instruct the administrators of the Parole Board to give Mr Watson a notice of postponement, indicating that we will consider whether we should postpone a further Parole Board hearing beyond the maximum of two years that ordinarily applies.
Sir Ron Young