David MCSWEENEY 30/6/2022
Under section 21(2) of the Parole Act 2002
David Charles MCSWEENEY
Hearing: 30 June 2022
at Whanganui Prison via MS Teams
Members of the Board:
Sir Ron Young – Chairperson
Prof Phil Brinded
Mr C Roberts
Mr P Elenio
Counsel: Mr R Chambers
In Attendance: [withheld] - Case Manager
[withheld] – Principal Case Manager
Support Persons: [withheld]
DECISION OF THE BOARD
- Mr McSweeney, who is 70 years of age, was sentenced to murder in 2006. He killed his wife. He had no other previous convictions. It will be helpful to read our decision when we previously saw Mr McSweeney in June 2021, together with this decision.
- When we saw him last, we noted that we had received extensive feedback from his stepchildren. That feedback was very concerning. Their feedback, which was confirmed again with our discussion with them prior to the hearing today, was that Mr McSweeney’s claim of a happy marriage until the murder was simply not true. They had said to us that Mr McSweeney towards both his children and his wife over many years was aggressive, controlling and a difficult person to live with. As a result, we pointed out to the private psychologist who had completed a report that it seemed to us that some of the facts on which she had based her assessment of risk were not accurate. We preferred the analysis of Corrections psychologists.
- We spent some time today talking to Mr McSweeney. We came away with a very worrying view of his situation.
- Today counsel sought parole. It was said that any further work that might be required with a psychologist could be done in the community. He had a release proposal to be released to [withheld] which would provide both accommodation and employment for him. A representative of [withheld] was present who said that they could provide Mr McSweeney with a winter job at the orchards and then further employment at the orchard in summer, and that he would have his own room in what is obviously a very large accommodation unit accommodating at its peak over 400 people.
- As we have noted, we spent some time trying to understand the reasons why Mr McSweeney killed his wife. We were not satisfied last time, nor are we satisfied this time, that we truly understand why he killed her. On his version of events, he and his wife were happily married. There was then stress with their business failing. In addition, Mr McSweeney then obtained employment in Wellington and because his wife had a protection order against him that might compromise his employment. And so, he killed her. That has never seemed an adequate explanation.
- The background provided by Mr McSweeney’s two stepdaughters gave us far more relevant information about a man who was aggressive and controlling over many years both to his wife and his children, and that fits in our mind far more with the lead-up to the circumstances of the murder.
- Today Mr McSweeney, responded to a number of questions we asked about the circumstances under which he came to kill his wife and about observations in the psychological report relating to his personality. He prides himself, he said, on giving straight and direct answers, but we did not find that he provided many straight answers or direct answers at all to us. When challenged about the killing of his wife and the circumstances he mentioned the 19 good years that he had provided for her.
- The psychological report notes that essentially Mr McSweeney has not had work specifically focused on intimate relationships and that he has a “skills deficit” in this area relevant to the circumstances of the offending. And so, for us he has not had sufficient treatment focused on his risk of re‑offending. As we have said, he does not seem yet to fully understand what gave rise to the murder which we imagine will be an important perquisite to valuable treatment.
- The Corrections’ psychologist identified significant further work that needed to be done. They described his presentation as complex and interventions likely long-term. Such treatment needs to be in prison given its close association with his risk. Mr McSweeney is well short of being able to convince us he is no longer an undue risk.
- We note that it was suggested, or raised the possibility, that the long-term work relating to his risk could be done by a private psychologist. That would not be acceptable for us. It is Corrections’ function to undertake this work and they should do so.
- We understand Mr McSweeney has had a number of guided releases. We do not think he is at the stage of reintegration. We think he is at the stage of rehabilitation and that guided releases can appropriately wait until Mr McSweeney has completed his rehabilitation work, or at least near the end of that work.
- And so, we see the way forward, therefore, as further work being done by Mr McSweeney on the circumstances of the murder and further work being done arising from the risk of the circumstances under which he killed his wife. Once that work is adequately completed, we will reassess the position.
- We made it clear today, however, that release to [withheld] would not be appropriate. That is not the kind of release we have in mind and we would wish to have a far more supported release in carefully proposed circumstances.
- In the meantime, he is an undue risk. We think this work will, as the psychologist identified, take some considerable time. We will see him again in 18 months’ time, by the end of December 2023.
Sir Ron Young