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Rapist who murdered on parole could not be sent to rehab centre due to waitlist

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Joseph James Brider was paroled under 14 special conditions but still managed to kill a woman. (file image) Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The Parole Board wanted to release a rapist, who later went on to brutally murder his neighbour, to a residential rehabilitation centre but a wait list meant there was no bed.

Joseph James Brider was yesterday jailed for life at the High Court in Christchurch for stabbing Colombian woman Juliana Bonilla-Herrera to death in January 2022, just 10 weeks after he was paroled from prison.

He was sent to a unit, used to house former prisoners, next door to Bonilla-Herrera's Addington flat, but the Department of Corrections did not notify her that her new neighbour was on parole for rape.

Corrections has cleared its staff of failing to properly manage Brider, while an independent parole board review by University of Waikato professor Devon Polaschek found the decision to release him three months ahead of his statutory release date was reasonable.

Brider was paroled under 14 special conditions, including electronic monitoring.

The Salisbury Street Foundation (SSF) provides residential oversight of men in the early stages of release from prison and can detect when they are slipping back into old habits.

Parole board chair Sir Ron Young said the rehabilitation centre was full at the time of Brider's release.

"It was disappointing that we couldn't release him to Salisbury Street Foundation, which we all thought would have been a better release [option]. We were told that it wasn't available ... that Salisbury Street didn't have a vacancy," he said.

The Chairperson of the New Zealand Parole Board, Sir Ron Young.
Sir Ron Young Photo: Aaron Smale/IKON Media

"We moved to the next best thing, which was a reintegration service provider, and of course imposed those 14 conditions.

"Salisbury Street Foundation is a wonderful organisation that provides residential care for prisoners and they are kept under very close scrutiny, but that's one in Christchurch. There's an inadequacy all around New Zealand, hardly any in Auckland, few in Wellington, and there's a big need."

Brider had completed the required rehabilitation programmes, including treatment for sex offenders, Sir Ron said.

"He had to be released. It's better to release people a little bit early and try to have some control over the way in which they behave than simply dump them at a boarding house on their sentence end date," he said.

Sir Ron said he had discussed the findings of the review with Bonilla-Herrera's family in Colombia.

"The board is completely horrified by this. It's the last thing that we imagined or wanted. It's an appalling tragedy," he said.

Professor of psychology and crime science Devon Polaschek said the parole board realised Brider was very unlikely to get a bed at SSF, because of the wait list at his final appearance in October 2021.

"The reality is that New Zealand has far too few residential community facilities like SSF, and the next best options for someone with Mr Brider's assessed level of future risk provide significantly less support and oversight.

Waikato University's Professor Devon Polaschek
University of Waikato professor Devon Polaschek Photo: Victoria University / supplied.

"It is very likely Mr Brider was thus released with a substantially higher level of unmet reintegrative need than would have been the case if he had been going directly to a residential rehabilitation facility."

It would have been easy for Brider's behaviour to deteriorate undetected, Polaschek said.

"I imagine that he had plenty of time on his hands in which no-one would be particularly aware of how he was settling in, and with only the night-time curfew requiring him to be at his accommodation."

Ideally, Brider would have been banned from contacting women until he posed less of a safety risk, but this would not have been an enforceable condition unless he was on a higher-level order such as an extended supervision order, she said.

Polaschek concluded it was "very unlikely that holding Mr Brider until his statutory release date would have been a better decision".

A separate Corrections review released on Wednesday by chief probation officer Darius Fagan found "the actions of staff neither caused nor could have prevented this offending".

"At no point were any concerns raised with Corrections about his integration into the community," Corrections said.

Brider bought rolls of masking tape, a box of condoms, latex gardening gloves and searched Bonilla-Herrera's name online in the weeks before the attack.

The court heard he had alcohol in his fridge and had endeavoured to start relationships with women, in breach of his release conditions, and breached his 10pm-6am curfew when he left his flat to attack Bonilla-Herrera.

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Corrections staff had failed to load Brider's curfew into the electronic monitoring system, but the unit was so close to his parole place it wouldn't have sent an alert, Corrections said. Photo: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

Canterbury district manager Toni Stewart denied Corrections staff had failed to enforce the conditions of Brider's parole.

"The probation officer worked really hard to ensure that he was compliant with all of those restrictions," she said.

"There weren't any concerns raised with us by individuals or agencies around his behaviour."

Brider did not fail an alcohol and drug test and there were no restrictions on his internet access, Stewart said.

While staff had failed to load Brider's curfew into Correction's electronic monitoring system, she said it would not have alerted them to Brider leaving his flat because Bonilla-Herrera's unit was so close.

Stewart said the department was working to tighten electronic monitoring of paroled prisoners who live close to others and reviewing the workloads of community Corrections staff.

"Although those things wouldn't have necessarily prevented what happened, it does indicate that obviously after such a horrific crime like this we really are committed to learning everything we can," she said.

Corrections has commissioned a separate independent review by clinical psychologist Dr Gwenda Willis to examine the community notification policy for parolees, which is due to be completed next month.

Justice Jonathan Eaton sentenced Brider to life in prison with a minimum non-parole period of 23 years and preventive detention, meaning he will be managed by the Department of Corrections for the rest of his life.