A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Not in my backyard

by Fr Brian O'Connell sm

The pending  release of notorious sex offender Stuart Murray Wilson has raised some serious issues about the treatment of sex offenders, and about NZ society in general. This offender has been in prison for 18 years for a range of sexual crimes over a 25 year period. While imprisoned he has refused any reformative treatment and is regarded by the parole board as a significant risk of reoffending. Legally he has to be released. When he was sentenced, preventive detention was not available to the sentencing judge. If applied, it would have prevented his release because of his aggressive attitude and the likelihood of reoffending.

The NZ Corrections Dept has come up with a list of 17 stipulations, that should make it impossible for him to reoffend. He will have to live alone in a house on the grounds of Whanganui prison, and be supervised 24/7. The citizens of Whanganui have expressed their outrage in a series of angry public meetings, and demanded that this offender not live in their town. Which is one of the few towns where none of Wilson’s former victims live.

Is there a decent, moderate, human, Christian response to this situation? This man’s offending was truly horrendous. However, a civilised society must be able to deal with such offenders rationally and responsibly. To keep someone locked up permanently is sometimes necessary. But sex offenders have become a special category, theirs an unforgiveable crime. Murderers are released after their prison time is up. I have given Holy Communion to a former murderer in a suburban parish.

In my view, the Corrections Department have done a good job in this situation. It is an unusual case, for most sex offenders are rehabilitated. With good will on the part of civic leaders, and corrections staff, the parolee ought not  be able to slip away unmonitored. If the redneck politicians of Whanganui manage to prevent the placement of this offender it will be a black day for NZ. Some other community will have to go through the same process. The ‘NIMBY’ attitude is deeply unchristian and irrational.

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