Matthew Backhouse

Matthew Backhouse is an APNZ news reporter based in Wellington.

Drink-driving killer's 'chilling disregard for the law'

Gavin Hawthorne was jailed in 2003. File photo / Sandy Parkinson
Gavin Hawthorne was jailed in 2003. File photo / Sandy Parkinson

A drink-driving killer who will be released from prison next week shows "a chilling disregard for the law" and threatened to cut off an electronic monitoring bracelet, the Parole Board says.

The Parole Board last week set release conditions for Gavin Hawthorn, 50, who is due to be released from Rimutaka Prison next Tuesday after serving a 10-year sentence for manslaughter.

The conditions include that he is not to enter Wairarapa, where his offending took place, without the prior written approval of his probation officer.

He is also banned from driving or owning a vehicle, or possessing or consuming alcohol or drugs.

The conditions will be imposed for six months after his release, but cannot legally be imposed any longer.

Hawthorn's offences have claimed four lives in two separate crashes, including that of Lance Fryer, who was killed in a high-speed crash in Greytown in June 2003.

In its written decision, released today, Parole Board panel convenor Alan Ritchie noted Hawthorn had said he would "simply cut off the bracelet" if electronic monitoring was imposed.

The board had considered whether to impose GPS monitoring on Hawthorn, which had been requested by the Department of Corrections.

But the board decided against it after his lawyer, Judith Fyfe, argued it was disproportionate and must only be imposed to address a specific risk.

In its decision, the board said there were potential human rights concerns with imposing monitoring.

"We can understand the department's motivation for making the application. Nevertheless, we cannot be satisfied that the situation existing today warrants a condition with such an impact on liberty and which can, in any event, be in place for six months only as the law stands."

Mr Ritchie noted Hawthorn's extensive criminal history, which included eight terms of imprisonment dating back to 1979 for offending including burglary, theft, drugs, violence, disorderly behaviour and non-compliance.

"The record is extensive and serious betraying a chilling disregard for the law. There has been atrocious driving resulting in the deaths of four people in consequence of two such instances."

The board noted Corrections' concern over his relationship with his partner, whose address he will be released to.

Hawthorn's lawyer had said he deeply regretted the offending and had been prepared to undertake treatment programmes in prison, for which he was denied.

There had been no problems with his behaviour in prison and his lawyer noted his "courageous intervention" to stop an attack on an officer by another prisoner.

Hawthorn's release conditions include that he must live where directed by his probation officer, and must not contact his victims' families.

He must also see a psychologist and undertake any treatments they recommend.

In 2004, Hawthorn was sentenced to 10 years' prison with a minimum non-parole period of six years for the manslaughter of Mr Fryer.

Hawthorn's car reached speeds of up to 167km/h shortly before another car pulled out in front and Hawthorn lost control. The car slammed into a power pole, killing Mr Fryer.

The crash was less than 1km from the scene of his first fatal crash in 1989. The then 26-year-old crashed into an oncoming vehicle, killing his passengers Peter Gay and John Kaukau, and injuring the occupants of the other car.

One of the injured occupants, Bob Stevens, later died of a blood clot after surgery.

Hawthorn has been denied parole on three occasions, the last in 2011.

- APNZ

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