Rebecca Quilliam

Rebecca Quilliam is senior reporter at the APNZ News Service office in Wellington.

Convicted killer accuses Parole Board member of being bias

John Frederick Ericson. Photo / NZ Herald
John Frederick Ericson. Photo / NZ Herald

A Blenheim man convicted of bludgeoning his wife to death with a tomahawk has accused a Parole Board member of bias because of the member's friendship with his wife's brother while they both held high ranking positions in the police force.

John Frederick Ericson appeared in the High Court at Wellington today for a judicial review of the Parole Board's decision to keep him imprisoned.

He is serving a life sentence for murdering his wife Sandra in July 1999 by striking her in the back of the head with a tomahawk 22 times while she slept.

He called police after the attack and admitted killing his wife but later said he had no memory of it.

Ericson has repeatedly been denied parole.

Ericson, dressed in grey prison clothes and carrying numerous folders filled with legal papers and notes, represented himself at today's hearing.

He told Justice Alan MacKenzie a Parole Board member and former police assistant commissioner, Neville Trendle, should have declared a conflict of interest during his Parole Hearing last May because when he was on the force, he was friends with former senior detective Allan Battershall - Ericson's brother-in-law.

Ericson said he did not realise during the hearing who Mr Trendle was, but it was later he remembered meeting him with Mr Battershall while they worked in the police force.

Mr Trendle had taken his wife's family out to dinner, Ericson said.

During May's parole hearing, "Mr Trendle was severely aggressive towards me", he said.

Ericson also argued the Parole Board was using the wrong legislation to keep him imprisoned and was using the stricter Parole Board Act 2002, when it should be using the more lenient Criminal Justice Act 1985, because his crime was committed before the Parole Act had come into law.

He disputed the Parole Board's reasoning to keep him behind bars was for the safety of the public because he had been considered a minimum risk inmate almost from the time he was sentenced.

He was classed as a high-medium risk after he escaped from a prison working group in 2007 for a day so he could access legal papers, he said.

Aside from the escape, his prison record was clean, he said.

"And yet the Parole Board keep saying I'm a risk to society - which I find offensive.

"They are using my escape as a tool to keep me in prison."

He said it was "shameful" he continued to be kept in prison.

Helen Sims, appearing for the Attorney-General said the Parole Board had said Mr Trendle did not know Mr Battershall and if he had known him, he would have declared it to the board.

She said the onus was on Ericson to prove the men knew each other.

Ms Sims also said section three of the Parole Act replaced provisions of the Criminal Act, so the board was using the correct legislation.

In her submission to the court, Ms Sims said that in deciding not to grant parole, the board took into account Ericson's offending, rehabilitative steps, the victims' views and the risk of reoffending on release.

"The verbatim transcript of the board's hearing on 22 May 2012 does not support Mr Ericson's allegations of unfairness or bias towards him by any of the members."

Justice MacKenzie said he needed to address the question of whether Mr Trendle should have been sitting on the board and he adjourned the hearing until affidavits were filed on the matter.

- APNZ

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