New Zealand Parole Board Appointments

  • Margaret Wilson

The Attorney-General Hon Margaret Wilson today announced appointments to the New Zealand Parole Board.

This board will replace the existing Parole Board and 17 District Prisons Boards from July 1.

The new board will be made up from members with judicial expertise - a chairperson and nine parole panel convenors (three of whom will act as regional convenors in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch) - and lay panel members.

Margaret Wilson said Justice Anthony Ellis QC of Wellington, who became a Queen's Counsel in 1981 and was appointed to the High Court bench in 1985, has been appointed to a three-year term as board chairperson.

"Justice Ellis has had a distinguished career presiding over a large number of criminal jury trials. He has a particular interest in wider social issues, including cross-cultural relations."

Nine judges have been appointed to one-year terms as panel convenors.

"Appointments have been kept to 12 months initially to allow the Chief District Court Judge to review the time commitment required for board work and to balance this against other demands for judges' time."

Thirteen lay people have been appointed, either full-time or part-time, to three-year terms as board members.

"These positions were advertised nationally in major newspapers because of the significant public interest in parole and related issues. This generated 700 enquiries and 300 applications, many of them of a very high standard," Margaret Wilson said.

The interview panels were headed by judges, and victim support groups also had input into decisions. Sensitivity to, and understanding of, the impact of crime on victims was one of the criteria for appointment.

Justice Minister Phil Goff said the new parole board structure would improve consistency and transparency in the sentencing system.

"The board is a single, professional body with nationwide coverage for making parole decisions. This will ensure greater consistency, accountability and public confidence in parole board decisions."

"Under the new Parole Act passed recently, the protection of society will be the fundamental principle for the New Zealand Parole Board," Mr Goff said.

The board will undergo induction and training for their new role shortly.

The appointees are:

Northern Region

Panel Convenors: Judge Bruce Buckton, Judge Jane Lovell-Smith and Judge Avinash Deobhakta.
Panel Members: Lavinia Nathan, Grace Dorset, Matua Hakiaha, Wendy Ball and June Jackson.

Central Region

Panel Convenors: Judge Richard Watson, Judge John Dalmer, and Judge Pat Toomey.
Panel Members: Fleur Grenfell, Sandy Gill, Alison Timms, and Steven Thomsen.

Southern Region

Panel Convenors: Judge Bill Unwin, Judge Ray Kean and Judge John MacDonald.
Panel Members: Reverend Maurice Gray, James Thomson, Robin Wilson and Janice Donaldson.

Attached: Additional background information on appointees.

Panel convenors

Judge Bruce Buckton (Regional Convenor, Auckland) District Court Judge since 1986. He has a strong interest in parole-related issues having served since 1995 as deputy-chair of the existing Parole Board, and as acting chair since Justice Heron's retirement. He has also studied parole systems in England and Australia. Chaired the Manawatu District Prisons Board between 1986 and 1988.

Judge Avinash Deobhakta (Auckland) District Court Judge since 1981. Educated in London, returned to Uganda and was the Principal State Attorney in the Department of Public Prosecutions and later a Chief Magistrate. He immigrated to New Zealand in 1972 and practised as a barrister sole in Auckland until joining the bench. Currently chairs the Waikeria District Prisons Board.

Judge Jane Hewat Lovell-Smith (Auckland) District Court Judge since 1994. Before that she worked as a solicitor with a variety of firms in Wellington, London and Auckland. Has chaired the Auckland District Prisons Board since 1997.

Judge Richard Watson (Regional Convenor, Wellington) District Court Judge since 1990. Currently chairs the Taumaranui and Turangi District Prisons Boards.

Judge John William Dalmer (Wellington) District Court Judge since 1978. Chaired the Wellington District Prisons Board since 1997 and the Wanganui Prisons Board between 1997 and 2000.

Judge Patrick Jerome Toomey (New Plymouth) District Court Judge from 1985 to 2000. He continues to serve under an acting warrant. Has chaired the New Plymouth District Prisons Board since 1997.

Judge Edward William 'Bill' Unwin (Regional Convenor, Nelson) Retired in 1997 after 16 years on the bench but continues to hold an acting warrant. Chairs the three Canterbury-based District Prisons Boards, as well as the Liquor Licensing Authority.

Judge John Enoka Macdonald (Dunedin) District Court Judge since 1990. Chaired the Rolleston, Christchurch and Christchurch Women's District Prisons Boards between 1996 and 1999. Was first admitted to the bar in 1973 and worked as a solicitor/partner with Billing Solicitors in New Plymouth until 1988, when he became a barrister sole. Former legal adviser to the Prisoners Aid and Rehabilitation Society.

Judge Ray Kean (Christchurch) District Court Judge since 1988, also a Family Court Judge. Former solicitor/partner in the Dunedin law firm Webb, Brash, Ward & Co. He was a founding executive member of the NZ Legal Association, was the on the committee of the Medical Legal Society and was founding President of the Otago Branch of the Family Courts Association.

Lay members

Northern Region

Lavinia Nathan Has in-depth experience of working with offenders and victims from both Maori and Pakeha perspectives. Worked extensively with recidivist offenders, initially as a probation officer, then in psychological services and for the past four years as manager of the Te Piriti Unit for offenders convicted of abusing children.

Matua (Matt) Hakiaha A former Probation Officer (1985-87) and Youth Justice Co-ordinator for Social Welfare. Worked as a tutor in social work and conference co-ordinator for CYPF Service. Since 1997 he has held a variety of contracts with Te Whanau o Waipareira Trust, most recently as project manager for social and community development. He was last year involved in the recruitment and training of restorative justice facilitators. Was a member of, and specialist adviser to, the Ministerial Taskforce on Youth Offending.

June Jackson Served on the Parole Board since 1990. Since 1986 she has been Chief Executive of the Manukau Urban Maori Authority and Manager of Nga Whara Waatea, an urban marae complex in Mangere. Has held several other government and advisory roles, including the Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission.

Wendy Ball Has been a law lecturer in various tertiary institutions in New Zealand and New South Wales. Currently Senior Lecturer, Criminal Law and Crimes at Waikato University. Before coming to New Zealand she worked in the Probation and Parole Service in NSW and practised as a criminal barrister, including working with the Crown prosecution services and Crown Defenders' Office. She has been a grief counsellor and presented seminars on family and domestic violence, grief and loss.

Grace Dorset Has had considerable involvement with inmates and inmate support groups; through membership of the Waikeria Prison Board, PARS, the Prisoners Families Network Support (Rotorua) and as initiator for a project to establish a home/hostel for released inmates. Her experience in decision-making roles is extensive and includes being trustee and secretary of Te Papaiouru Marae, President of the Rotorua YMCA, Member of the National Health Camp Board and chair of the State Housing Allocation Committee.

Central Region

Sandra Gill Until recently standards manager with the Medical Council of NZ. Before that she was employed for four years at Arohata Prison as counsellor and then as programmes manager. In the absence of the general manager, she was the Arohata representative on the District Prisons Board.

Alison Timms Has considerable experience in complex and challenging decision-making and risk management roles in high profile organisations. Recent work includes senior management in the Department of Social Welfare and the establishment of residential treatment programmes in DSW. She was acting chief executive of the New Zealand Fire Service from 1999 to 2001.

Stephen Thomsen Currently interim co-ordinator of the Pacific Safer Community (Wellington Region) Trust. Has been involved in the preparation and implementation of training programmes for trustees, crime prevention and reduction strategies, and community consultation with Pacific Island groups. From June 1993 to December 2000 he worked as pastoral assistant and the Samoan chaplain for the Archdiocese of Wellington, where his duties included organising and supervising the Samoan lay visitation programme for local prison inmates.

Fleur Grenfell Joined the Prison Service in 1974, later becoming Superintendent at Christchurch Women's Prison, and Manager and General Manager at Arohata. She introduced the first prison-based victim awareness programme while at Arohata and also increased the number of Maori and Pacific Island staff working in the prisons to proportions more closely matched to those of the prison population.

For Southern Region

Robin Wilson Retired as General Manager of NZ Children & Young Persons Service in 1994 after more than 22 years in Social Welfare. During this time he had responsibility at various levels for juvenile justice, including the management of institutions for young offenders.

Jim Thomson A long serving probation officer and Service Manager with responsibility since 1999 for home detention in Christchurch. He is currently the Community Probation Service member of the Rolleston and Christchurch District Prisons Boards.

Reverend Maurice Gray Has 20 years experience in the prisons, probation and psychological services, including membership of the Canterbury Prison Board, and chairperson of Te Kahui Atawhai (Canterbury Prisons Cultural Advisory Board).

Janice Donaldson Currently Manager, Maori Health for Canterbury District Health. She has previously held management positions with other health authorities and Ngai Tahu Development Corporation. Worked as a Probation Officer in Christchurch and Timaru from 1981 to 1989. She has also been involved in the Christchurch Community Law Centre, the Canterbury District Legal Services Committee and the Maori Legal Service.