Beast” too big a threat – system let us down

There is angst in our community, and rightly so, over the parole of Stewart Murray Wilson, ‘Beast of Blenheim’ to Whanganui.

Beehive Chat, Tariana Turia
Whanganui Chronicle
Beast” too big a threat – system let us down
Tuesday 14 August 2012

While I absolutely believe that offenders can and should be supported to rehabilitate and reintegrate into communities, there are always exceptions to the rule. Stewart Wilson would be one of a very small group of offenders who I believe pose such a high risk to the community that every avenue must be explored to keep our communities free from potential harm.

The question before us is why is this high risk offender being released into our community of Whanganui? The fact of the matter is that we have been let down by our system of law; and what has been of most concern to me, is the poor processes of communication which have occurred during the last week. This is an issue of extreme interest to the whole community, and as such, we should have been much better prepared to respond when the announcements were made about his placement in our town. Communication is the key to understanding – and without that opportunity for dialogue inevitably tensions will rise as indeed they have.

I have no doubt that systems will be put in place by various government agencies to ensure that risk to people and families is minimised, but I believe that unless you address the issues within the offender, then the risk will always be present no matter what plans you may put in place.

One of the most grave concerns I have about Mr Wilson, is that he has never accepted responsibility for the crimes that he has committed. If you cannot accept that you have committed a crime, then how can you feel remorse? How can you tell right from wrong once out in the community? How can you manage your behaviour appropriately?

The biggest risk that must be managed is Stewart Wilson’s own behaviours – and that cannot happen living in an isolated house within Whanganui Prison. He is a dangerous man, and the risk he poses has now been passed on to our community.

I spent much of this weekend communicating with our community and some of our Councillors on Mr Wilson’s parole to our town. I was also briefed following the public meeting called by Councillors Stevens and Laws. The resolutions adopted at that meeting were to reject the parole of Stewart Wilson into our district; and that our Council take all actions, legal, political and administrative to ensure that Mr Wilson is not paroled into our district.

On Wednesday night, tomorrow, there will be another public meeting called by the Mayor to provide people with an opportunity to have their questions answered, and concerns heard. I have asked the Minister to ensure that representatives from the Department of Corrections will be present at this meeting, so it is important that everyone who has a view on this issue be present to have your say, and to hear what plans are in place to minimise the risk to our whanau here.

While we as a town are dealing with this issue today, the bigger issue here is about the law. It is about protecting our communities from high risk offences; it is about the relationship between central government agencies and our local government bodies; and it is also about mechanisms for ensuring that communities have a say over what happens within their district. These are major issues, and I hope to be able to look in to how we can address these in the future.

In the meantime, I encourage everyone to think about how this issue applies to them, and if you have any questions to attend the meeting at 5.30pm tomorrow night at Heritage House, St Hill St.

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