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Parole Board of Tasmania

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Parole Board Decision

In the Matter of Corrections Act 1997

and

In the Matter of an application for Parole by Anthony John Oates

28 June 2019

Reasons for Decision

The Background:

Anthony John Oates (“the applicant”) is currently serving a sentence of imprisonment of life for the conviction of murder.

The applicant became eligible for consideration for parole on 20 June 2019.

This application initially came before Board on 25 January 2019 at which time it was adjourned to enable a psychiatric report and home assessment to be undertaken. The matter again came before the Board on 14 June 2019 at which time it was then adjourned for completion of the psychological assessment. Ultimately, the matter was heard by the Board at its meeting on 28 June 2019. On that occasion the applicant was present at the hearing and was invited to provide any information he had in support of his application and made himself available for questioning by the Board.

A pre-parole report prepared on behalf the Board had been read to the applicant prior to his appearance at the hearing.

Statutory Criteria

In determining the application, the Board has had regard to the following statutory criteria:-

The Corrections Act 1997, s72, establishes a statutory criteria for determining suitability for parole.

S72 (4) specifically provides as follows:

“In determining whether or not a prisoner should be released on parole, the Board is to take into consideration –

  • The likelihood of the prisoner re-offending; and
  • The protection of the public; and
  • The rehabilitation of the prisoner; and
  • Any remarks made by the court in passing sentence; and
  • The likelihood of the prisoner complying with the conditions; and
  • The circumstances and gravity of the offence, or offences, for which the prisoner was sentenced to imprisonment; and
  • The behaviour of the prisoner while in prison and, if he or she has been in a secure mental health unit, while in that secure mental health unit; and
  • The behaviour of the prisoner during any previous release on parole; and
  • The behaviour of the prisoner while subject to any order of a court; and
  • Any reports tendered to the Board on the social background of the prisoner, the medical, psychological or psychiatric condition of the prisoner or any other matter relating to the prisoner, including in the case of a prisoner who is or has been a forensic patient any report of the Chief Forensic Psychiatrist; and
  • The probable circumstances of the prisoner after release from prison; and
  • Any statement provided under subsection (2B) by a victim, or, if subsection (2AB) applies, the parent or guardian of the victim, of an offence for which the prisoner has been sentenced to imprisonment; and
  • If the prisoner is a sex offender prisoner, any notice or assessment given to the Board pursuant to section 31(6) or (7) concerning the prisoner's participation or non-participation in appropriate treatment; and
  • Any other matters that the Board thinks are relevant.”

When considering the application for parole of a sex offender s31(3)(b) of the Act is also relevant:

  • “The Director, on giving the sex offender prisoner the opportunity to participate in the appropriate treatment, is to inform the prisoner that…
  • Participation, non-participation or unsatisfactory participation will, if the prisoner becomes eligible for parole, be factors taken into consideration by the Board in determining whether the prisoner should be released on parole.”

The purpose of parole:

The system of parole recognises the capacity of some prisoners for change and reform, the benefits of supervision, treatment and program delivery in the community and ultimately the potential this has for the protection of the community by reducing the risk of reoffending and supervising the reintegration of offenders.

When considering eligibility for parole this purpose must be weighed against the risk each prisoner may pose to members of the community if released to serve the remainder of their sentence amongst them and the ability to remove or mitigate that risk by the imposition of appropriate conditions.

Consideration:

The applicant has applied for parole on five previous occasions since 2009 in this jurisdiction. On each occasion, the application was refused.

The applicant was convicted of a murder in 1969 and 1996. On the first occasion, the applicant was a hitch hiker in Adelaide who was picked up by his victim. After traveling from South Australia to Victoria, an argument developed between the two resulting ultimately in the applicant’s death. At the time of this offence, the applicant was 16 years of age.

After appropriately 15 years served in prison in respect to this offence, the applicant was awarded parole in Victoria. That parole order was ultimately revoked due to the applicant offending. He committed an armed robbery. He was returned to prison as a result of the breach of parole and to serve sentences in respect to his offending.

It appears the applicant was again afforded parole in 1993 in Victoria, however that order also was breached due to the applicant’s offending in 1996. That offence was the second murder.

In 1996 the applicant was in the company of the victim and his wife. It appears the applicant and the victim’s wife developed a relationship and subsequently the applicant killed the victim by striking him to the head with a tomahawk whilst he slept in his bed. This offending was described by the Honourable Justice McKenzie at sentencing as “a killing… to further your mutual lust. It was nothing less than an execution of the victim while he slept. I have no doubt that the both of you fought while he was alive, he was an obstacle to your plans and you decided that he had to go”.

The opportunity for parole was again afforded to the applicant in 2010, however that order was cancelled as a result of further offending after 18 months.

During the entirety of the applicant’s custodial terms, he has been of exemplary behaviour. He is classified minimum security housed in the independent O’Hara Units and has spent significant periods within the community through Section 42 leave for the purposes of accessing education, undertaking volunteer employment and other social outings. The only blemish on the applicant’s custodial record is an instant on the 1June 2019 which occurred whilst the applicant was on a Section 42 leave providing volunteer services, where he was involved in an exchange of words with a member of the community. The Applicant’s version of the event were supported by the version provided by his custodian. The incident accordingly did not give rise to any internal disciplinary action.

The applicant has engaged in prison courses over the many years of his custodial term, some of which have been vocationally based in order to provide him with skills that might assist him upon his return into the community.

Certainly the concern with respect to this application is the potential that the applicant has become institutionalised.

At the request of Board, a report was sought from forensic psychologist Dr Damian Minehan. Mr Minehan had previously provided an assessment of the applicant in 2009. The risk of institutionalisation was raised by the applicant during his assessment with Dr Minehan and it was noted that the extensive Section 42 leave in which the applicant had participated would ameliorate this risk.

The protective factors identified in Mr Minehan’s 2009 report remain pertinent and include the following:

  • The history of substance abuse;
  • The absence of major mental illness;
  • A good prison disciplinary record;
  • Ongoing family support;
  • Financial stability;
  • Participation in a wider range of prison based educational and vocational programs;
  • Realistic and stable plan once release on parole;
  • The applicant is now 68 years of age. This also could constitute a protective factor against risk of further offending.
  • Supervision on a parole order would progress the efforts made under Section 42 leave for the reintegration of the applicant back into the community.

Accommodation identified has been assessed as suitable for him.

The applicant has asserted that he deliberately delayed in making an application for making the application for parole, it being 6 years since the last refusal of parole in 2012, to undertake changes and to ensure his readiness for a parole order. The applicant’s history on parole has not been a positive one. The applicant has spent a considerable period within a prison environment. He has demonstrates capacity to comply with the dictates of a custodial environment and has engaged in the process of self-improvement and broadened the skills to assist him once he returns to the community.

Supervision under a parole order would assist in that reintegration and in particular, ensure his engagement with forensic psychological support under a mental health care plan.

On balancing all matters, the Board approves this application for parole.

The Board’s determination:

Parole is approved.

Special conditions applied:

Subject to the usual conditions of a parole order together with the applicant is to obtain a mental health care plan.

Paroled from 8 July 2019 - the term of his natural life.