17 Aug 2012

Council wants judicial review of Wilson placement

5:21 am on 17 August 2012

Whanganui District Council has voted unanimously to seek a judicial review of the decision to place sex offender Stewart Murray Wilson on the grounds of the Whanganui prison.

The council held an extraordinary meeting on Thursday night to discuss Wilson's release into the district.

Corrections Department chief executive Ray Smith defended the way the matter is being handled.

One councillor, former mayor Michael Laws, called Mr Smith sneaky and devious for his handling of Wison's release.

But Mr Smith said Mr Law's comments were unfair, and the consultation had been as timely as possible, given that all 43 of Wilson's victims had to be spoken with first.

The meeting was the second in two nights about Wilson, 65, and his future in the community.

On Wednesday, Mayor Annette Main said she will do all she can to prevent Wilson being placed in the city.

At a fiery public meeting police and Corrections officials tried to calm residents worried about him being released to the city.

Wilson is almost at the end of an extended sentence for rapes, bestiality, stupefying, assault and ill-treatment of children over a period of 25 years.

He is to be housed on Whanganui Prison grounds following his release, due on 1 September.

Ms Main denies she has accepted the department's decision and says she will do all she can to stop it.

"I have not accepted it, I don't accept it but I still don't know what we can do to actually change it. We're going to be trying."

Ms Main told Morning Report says the council will consider legal advice on whether it can overturn the decision, but what it doesn't know is what would happen to Wilson if it is successful.

She is adamant Whanganui City Council is not giving into a vigilante mentality, but says she and the community do not have enough information about how Wilson's release conditions will work to assure safety.

Residents not satisfied

During the meeting on Wednesday, called by the mayor, reassurances that public safety is the No 1 priority were met with jeers from local people.

They were told Wilson will be the most stringently managed offender in New Zealand and it will take only 30 seconds for the police to respond if his GPS monitoring is tampered with.

Resident Kathleen Parnell says answers such as that did not satisfy her. "Thirty seconds is not a correct answer - it takes longer than that to open a door."

Corrections general manager Brendon Anstiss says the meeting was positive, despite emotions running high and many still wanting to fight the decision of Wilson's release into the area.

"I've actually had some very positive feedback tonight. People have come up to me and said 'I want to make your plan better, I'm a resident of Whanganui, I want to help where I can'."

Mr Antsiss says he isn't happy about Wilson's release either, and would not like him living near his children, but by law he has to be freed from prison and this is the best plan to manage him.

He says while some people wanted better consultation, the level of feeling in the community would have been the same no matter when it was discussed.