Sonny CHIN 16/04/2024

There is an order prohibiting publication of the name, address and occupation or identifying particulars of the offender and/or victim.

Parole Hearing

Under section 21(1) of the Parole Act 2002

Sonny CHIN

Hearing: 16 April 2024

at Rolleston Prison

Members of the Board:

Ms S Bailey – Panel Convenor

Ms K Coutts

Mr Sam Perry

In Attendance: [withheld] - Case Manager

Support Persons: [withheld]


  1. Sonny Chin appears for a first consideration of parole. Mr Chin is serving a sentence of three years and three months imprisonment after convictions were entered to indecent assaults (x10) after a jury trial. Mr Chin has no previous convictions and therefore this is a first time within the prison environment. He has a statutory release date of 22nd June 2026 which is just over two years away. He has a RoC*RoI of 0.203, an ASRS score of minus three and is presently under a classification of minimum.
  2. The trial Judge’s sentencing notes are very clear. He said in each of the cases presented by the different victims he was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that each complainant was telling the truth and [withheld].
  3. The offending was against female clients who engaged with the massage (or “body technician practise” as termed by Mr Chin). [withheld].
  4. There are numerous incidents described in the Judge’s sentencing notes and for the purpose of this decision those incidents will not all be covered. Referral to the Judge’s notes will outline the extent of the offending. The numerous complaints all involved allegations of sexual behaviour. [withheld].
  5. Mr Chin appeared to have a modus operandi with these complainants in that he would engage them in conversation implying he knew quite a lot about them and would then extend what they believed they were to receive (massage) into sexual contact. As the Judge noted, there were common themes across the statements that were tendered by the victims.
  6. The Board note that Mr Chin was spoken to by the police in 2016 after they had received a complaint. He continued with his same practise techniques (body technician practise).
  7. The reports before the Judge at the time of sentencing gave some insight into his background and circumstances of the offending.  The Judge referred to the pre-sentence report which revealed a lack of insight on Mr Chin’s part. At that time, Mr Chin said he wanted to return to practice, suggesting he could employ mitigation strategies. The Judge noted that he said he would employ mitigation strategies after the police became involved in 2016. However, the offending continued. At paragraph [28] of the Judge’s decision, the Judge said that Mr Chin continued to deny the sexual element of the offending and “given the absence of that acceptance of responsibility it was very difficult to give any weight to the apologies that he sought then to offer”.  Significantly, the Judge noted that Mr Chin’s lack of insight and his lack of acceptance of responsibility are relevant to the risk of reoffending.
  8. Mr Chin apparently does not meet criteria for any prison-based psychological treatment, and it has been made clear there will be no referrals from the psychological department.  His risk is considered as low of reoffending.  He has been referred to his case manager for release planning and reintegration purposes. Overall, the PAR is a good one for Mr Chin.
  9. It is noted at this time Mr Chin wishes to be released to [withheld] address in Dunedin, however there are victim concerns with this address and that will be addressed later in this decision.
  10. Mr Chin forwarded a letter to the Board outlining his time in prison and how he has been using that time, reflecting on his position and it appears now he is stating that he will retire from work after his release from prison.
  11. Mr Chin has been using his time usefully. He has completed a health course. He is a cleaner in the unit and he has been maintaining contact with his family supports.
  12. The Board had a reasonably extensive hearing with Mr Chin. The Board highlighted to Mr Chin his patterns of behaviour and the number of victims. Mr Chin believes he is going well within the prison environment. He is keeping busy with social contact amongst the other prisoners and also has work within the unit.
  13. The Board appreciate that Mr Chin has received no formal rehabilitation and he is considered ineligible to receive psychological input from the prison services. Mr Chin has put forward a Good Life (safety) Plan which is essentially a substitute for psychological intervention in preparing a safety plan. His Good Life plan was discussed extensively within the hearing because, for example, he talks about retiring on the one hand and yet his plan covers topics about him potentially carrying on with his work. He states that if he does carry on with his “work” he will not continue [withheld]. He said that if he continued with any work at all it would be non-body contact work.
  14. Mr Chin was fully into talking about energy and sound therapy. Nearly every question was answered with his referrals to energy awareness and his intent not to hurt anybody. He responded with his ability to be reactive to energy emanated from his clients’ responses to his touch. This told him whether that was positive or negative energy and how best for him to respond which, at times apparently, resulted in unexpected sexual touching. He said his skill base in this made his responses appropriate, despite not pre-warning his clients. (In trial he claimed he did tell all his clients what was going to happen, this contrasts with the evidence given).
  15. Mr Chin said that he would accept his punishment and do his time. When asked outright if he accepted that he was guilty of indecent assaults he said he was accepting of the sentence, but he had done nothing intentionally. He denies the essential component of any of the matters he was accused and found guilty of. At the time the offending occurred he states quite clearly that he did not believe he was sexually offending against any of the victims. This is reflected in his decision to go to trial.
  16. It is further noted that his Good Life (safety) plan was worked on by himself and he had no input from anybody else. He had a discussion with his case manager but that did not result in any changes. His Good Life (safety) Plan is not considered adequate with respect to being relied on when released. There needs to be a far better outline of his high-risk situations and how they will be dealt with.
  17. Mr Chin was asked about the victim statements which have been forwarded to him.  These statements are very clear, articulate and point out many matters from the victim's perspective. When questioned closely on the statements the answers tended to be circular and responded to in so-called “energy” terms and justifying his responses in accordance with the energy he was “receiving” as a result of the [withheld]. To this Board, there seems to be a total lack of insight as to the kind of physical touching with which Mr Chin engaged in and the potential impact on any of the victims.
  18. His case manager had very little to add but said she would work with him to prepare a new safety plan as long as Mr Chin was cooperative with her input.
  19. Mr Chin constantly referred to “reading the energy” of his victims. He constantly explained how this energy flows and how he receives this energy and therefore responds according to the energy flow from a body including when old traumas are triggered. He believes he has a very good insight into this and responding appropriately regardless of his clients’ consent. Essentially, a certain kind of energy is released and although the victim may not fully understand it, Mr Chin implied that he was able to respond to this kind of energy and appropriately (or inappropriately as the case may be) touch the victim.
  20. His family were present today. [withheld].
  21. One family member said that because English was a second language for Mr Chin it is not always interpreted correctly. There was a suggestion that when Mr Chin referred to ongoing “work”, the work was not in any way involving people but was supposedly interpreted to mean “other things”. It is not within the scope of this Board to interpret Mr Chin’s exact definitions of “work” but the Good Life (safety) plan forwarded presents conflicting views.
  22. Mr Chin was again asked about the police intervention in 2016 and why he did not change his practise. He was also pointed to the victim statements, as already mentioned, and asked if he thought they were wrong in their interpretation. Mr Chin once again responded by talking about the energy that is generated and his reading of that energy and the appropriateness of his treatment. It was put to him that this is not normal massage and that anyone dealing with women in this kind of situation would have someone else present. He was asked about the information he provided to his clients prior to them starting treatment with him. He said as a body technician he “does provide pamphlets but these are in the reception of his home from where he was working.”  They are not available before a client comes in. He seemed reluctant to accept that the women who complained did not know what was going to happen. He stated that before he did anything he would tell them what he was going to do. This is in complete contrast to the victim's statements and evidence given in trial.  It is in complete contrast to what the Judge accepted as evidence within his trial.
  23. The answer to most of the questions was circular. Mr Chin constantly referred to the “energy” which is generated, which he can read and which, in his view, makes his responses appropriate as to how he massages these victims.
  24. It is a great concern to this Board that this offending occurred over a long period of time.  The first offence occurred in 2007. There was further offending in 2011 and 2015. In 2016 he was spoken to by the police and further offending occurred during 2019. He was alerted by the police that he was on notice, he continued to practise in the same way and also to continue with social media platforms which shows very little insight as noted by the sentencing Judge.
  25. Parole today is declined. Mr Chin is still considered an undue risk. It is considered that his Good Life (safety) Plan should be completely rewritten, he should address his high-risk situations and be far more definitive in how he is going to deal with these matters.  In the present plan, there is mixed messages about his future intents. There is also a concern that Mr Chin denies any sexual element to the offending. He said repeatedly that he accepts that he was found guilty and accepts he will do his sentence but continues to deny there was any sexual intent in any of this offending. This is, as the sentencing Judge noted, directly related to his future risk.
  26. The Board are also concerned that Mr Chin is practising within a therapeutic trusting environment without any oversight from a formal organisation. This has to be considered because it will not be difficult for Mr Chin to resume in his practice. It is accepted by some he is well regarded, namely his male clients, within the Dunedin community.  This does not offer protection to future female clientele.
  27. The other matter which is of concern to the Board is that presently there has not been enough liaison with VNR and potential exclusion zones. Mr Chin was practising in the Dunedin area, and this is where he wants to return to [withheld]. The case manager made it clear there are VNR considerations although these have not been defined as yet and the Board want that done prior to the next Board hearing so it is absolutely clear what is being requested for consideration. The zones may include Dunedin (or Otago) and Auckland. When considering the Dunedin area where Mr Chin practised, the Board consider it important not to restrict victims from enjoying the wider city and surrounds.
  28. Essentially, to sum up, there is no clarity in Mr Chin’s Good Life (safety) plan as to what he is going to do and what that means. The plan needs to be completely revised with his case manager. This Board believes this would be from a denier’s point of view in that Mr Chin still denies the sexual component of the charges. He needs firmly to clarify his retirement plans. Without formal oversight of his work and his ongoing ability to resume such work, it is considered that that is a minimal requirement.
  29. Parole is declined. For the reasons outlined he is considered an undue risk. Mr Chin will be seen again in eight months’ time, that is in December 2024 and prior to the end of that month. It is expected by then a complete revision of his safety planning will be undertaken and also an updated report to the Board about VNR concerns and possible exclusion zones. In fairness to Mr Chin, requested exclusion zones should be notified to him prior to the next hearing.

Ms S Bailey

Panel Convenor