'There's no blood on my hands', says Corrections chief

It seems the Corrections Department has a more tolerant understanding of zero tolerance than the Parole Board.

An independent review into the Parole Board decision to release killer Graeme Burton on parole last year noted the board had been told by the Corrections Department that Burton would be managed with "zero tolerance" and raised a question of whether its expectations had been met.

But it seems one government agency's opinion of what zero tolerance means differs from another's, as Corrections chief Barry Matthews outlined today.

"The difficulty with the word 'zero tolerance' is that it means different things to different people. That is one of the things we need to make absolutely clear with the Parole Board so that there are not expectations that we are operating a regime that we in fact are not.

"Zero tolerance means there must be action taken when there are in fact breaches, but it does not mean the person (on parole) has to be recalled."

When Burton failed to report on December 5 to his probation officer, but rang in, he was directed to report at the end of the day. He didn't do so, the probation officer issued a written warning.

That was one example of zero tolerance, said Mr Matthews.

"Zero tolerance does not mean he is immediately going to be recalled or that there will be a breach (notice) on him. So there is a hierarchy of sanctions that can be applied and must be applied for those on the offender warning records (high-risk offenders)"

Mr Matthews said today the parole board report raised issues that Corrections was not aware of and identified areas where the board's understanding of some technical aspects, such as the department's risk classifications, could be improved.

Corrections would work closely with the board, so there was greater understanding of some of the department's terms.

Absolved from blame

Barry Matthews has absolved his department from blame in the on-parole killing of Karl Kuchenbecker by Graeme Burton.

Mr Matthews today conceded one area where Burton's parole could have been better managed by the probation service, but said it was not a factor in Burton's rampage in the Lower Hutt hills in early January, in which Mr Kuchenbecker was shot dead and four mountainbikers were wounded.

"I don't think there is a nexus between the tragedy and the management of his parole," Mr Matthews told reporters at a press conference today.

The Corrections Department last night released an internal review into the management of Burton's parole. It found that the department provided sufficient information in its last psychological report on Burton, which was made available to the Parole Board before it met Burton in June last year. Burton, a convicted killer, was subsequently released on parole.

Mr Matthews said today he was satisfied with the management of Burton's parole, but said a breach action should have been taken against him on December 13 last year after he failed to report to the probation service the day before.

His probation officer was on leave at the time and no breach notice was issued until December 20.

"At the end of the day, the police were already hunting Burton at that stage," Mr Matthews said.

When a reporter asked whether the department had blood on it hands, Mr Matthews replied: "No, there's no blood on my hands."

- NZPA

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