The tragic events of the murder of Nicole Tuxford and Kim Schroder at the hand of the same rapist murderer, Paul Wilson, aka Paul Tainui, caught our attention this week when name suppression was lifted.

And the anguish of the friends and family of Kim Schroder who gave evidence on five occasions before the parole board recommending Wilson not be released.

Their firm belief he would offend again is now known to have been well founded, but their grief was even more devastating considering the apparent suicide of Kim Schroder's father within days of hearing of Wilson's second killing.

I have never suffered the murder of a family member but have been very close to those who have many times over many years. Let alone the rape of people close to me and those I have supported through the justice system wearing many hats, both formal and informal.

Advertisement

Sentinel events such as this focus the attention of the public, agencies, politicians and the media.

We have seen many responses from all sides, mainly calling for reform in favour of far more punitive responses in the hope of preventing repetition of such awful offending.

Television presenter Duncan Garner called for the death penalty, the Sensible Sentencing Trust called for mandatory life imprisonment for all murderers.

Regardless of all compassion we feel for victims' families, and the momentary sympathy some may have for the prospect of capital punishment or life in prison, any law made on the back of a single event is seldom precisely targeted or achieves the objective, no matter how well intentioned.

With hindsight we can see the family's assertions as correct. They were distraught that the parole board didn't do as they suggested and keep him in jail so he couldn't kill again in the same way.

The Schroders' view was that the trigger for Wilson killing remained and could align again in another tragic event, and they were right.

The parole board took noice of the psychiatric report provided by Corrections and gave it more weight.

It is easy to think that the family of any murder victim would want the offender to remain behind bars for the maximum amount of time and never be released if at all possible.

Advertisement

That does not mean those who knew the offender on the outside are not very well placed to give evidence on how that offender will behave when again on the outside.

The person preparing the psychiatric report had only seen Wilson in a carefully constructed false environment, removed from the temptations and behaviours that led to the first offending and the substances that may have fuelled those actions which had tragic consequences.

In as much as a family's recommendations might be seen as skewed, so might the psychiatrist having interviewed a prisoner seeking parole by behaving well in prison, giving all the right answers with the incentive that a positive report will achieve freedom.

Balancing the skews is the role of the parole board, and it must be a very difficult job indeed. The correct decision only became evident over time.

The media called for my response as chairman of the Justice Reform Advisory Group, having told the listening audience that no doubt I would be an apologist for a much softer approach to parole.

But reform of the justice system is about making the system safer, which may not be about shortening, lengthening or abolishing parole. It is about making much safer decisions that affect people's lives and wanting to create as little harm as possible to all involved.

My personal view is that banning parole for all inmates would be like dealing with injury motor accidents by reducing the speed limit to 10km/h. It would be 100 per cent effective and totally unworkable. But just like there may well be people who should never be allowed to drive, there are probably prisoners who should never be allowed parole.

Blunt instruments should never be used for precise procedures.

Knee-jerk responses never work, though they are highly desirable to many people in the light of shocking events.

That just reflects the human condition, but we need to be cleverer than that.

Chester Borrows served as Whanganui MP for 12 years and as a minister in the National Government. He is chairman of the Justice Reform Advisory Group.