Parole board report: Burton suspected of jail assaults before release

By Elizabeth Binning, Martin Johnston

Killer Graeme Burton was the prime suspect in two serious prison bashings months before he was released by the Parole Board, a new report reveals.

Details of the beatings, and a claim that Burton and another inmate were soliciting prisoners for "hits" on prison officers, were outlined by a psychologist who reported to the board last April.

But the claims could not be substantiated because informants would not give evidence or recanted their statements.

Burton was moved into segregation as a result but never charged or disciplined. A psychiatrist who spoke to Burton about the allegations said he denied them.

The Parole Board decided last June to release Burton, who had been serving 14 years for murdering Paul Anderson, after a period of "impeccable" behaviour. Six months later he killed Wainuiomata father Karl Kuchenbecker, sparking a public furore over the decision to parole him.

The report also says the Parole Board acted "somewhat prematurely" in setting a prison release date for Burton on condition that a psychological report showed his risk of re-offending had reduced.

But board chairman Judge David Carruthers last night defended its actions. "The review makes it clear that those sorts of assessments by psychologists still have to be balanced by the board's assessment of all the other evidence as well."

The review was commissioned by the Parole Board and done by Chief District Court Judge Russell Johnson and Australian clinical forensic psychology professor James Ogloff.

It is one of two reports issued today. The second, an internal Corrections Department report, said the department's provision of information to the board before Burton's release was generally adequate, but could be improved.

The review report says the board's decision to grant Burton's application for parole was reasonable, but it cites several things the board could learn from the tragedy, including about its use of psychologists' reports and how it deals with expectations of a prisoner's release.

"The board acted somewhat prematurely by setting a release date to be considered subject to the receipt of a psychological report 'if that can show what you have achieved has reduced your risk'.

"This is particularly the case since the previous psychological reports identified Mr Burton as having been at 'high risk' or 'very high risk' for violence."

When the board decided to release Burton last June, it said his risk to the community was "not considered to be undue".

The reviewers also note "a sense over time" that the board had an expectation that Mr Burton should be released.

Judge Carruthers said he was pleased with the review's overall findings.

"It's easy to look back at this in agony afterwards and think 'what could have been done, what could have been seen', but I agree with the review that on the information available it was a reasonable and responsible decision," he said

Judge Carruthers said the board had needed to judge each case on its merits. But it would look at the review's recommendations.

After Mr Kuchenbecker's death Judge Carruthers said he felt responsible. Last night he said he still felt that responsibility but the review was a form of reassurance that the right decision was made.

"It helps us in that it shows that we have been careful and responsible about making the decision on what we had."

Nick Rae, who was attacked by Burton in the Hutt hills just he was caught by police, last night said he was unhappy with parts of the board's report.

"In particular it's overall conclusion ... I don't accept that the Parole Board's decision was reasonable on the basis of the information available to the board."

Freedom ends with deadly rampage

* Graham Burton was released on parole on July 10 last year after serving 14 years in prison for the fatal nightclub stabbing of Paul Anderson.

* In December, a warrant was issued for his arrest after he breached his parole conditions.

* Before he was caught he went on a four-day rampage that ended with the fatal shooting of 26-year-old Karl Kuchenbecker. Burton also fired at four others on a mountain bike trail near Lower Hutt.

* The 36-year-old was captured after police shot him in the left leg, which was later amputated.

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