17 Aug 2012

Williams calls for calm over sex offender's release

10:30 pm on 17 August 2012

A lawyer and prison reform advocate is calling for calm in Whanganui in the wake of what he calls a hysterical reaction to the release of a notorious sex offender.

Stewart Murray 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.

The 65-year-old is to be housed on Whanganui Prison grounds near the North Island city following his release, due on 1 September.

On Thursday night, the Whanganui District Council voted to seek a judical review of a Parole Board decision to release Wilson and, if that fails, to coordinate a community shunning of him.

Peter Williams, QC, says he has been repulsed by some of the reaction he has seen.

Mr Williams says the hysteria reminds him of a pack of wolves and people's cruel comments and intentions are not the way a decent, civilised community should act.

Wilson will need to be shown compassion, encouragement and kindness from the community, he says.

Meanwhile a criminologist, who was once a prison inmate, believes community is acting like a small town Mississippi lynch mob in resisting Wilson's relocation.

Canterbury University sociology professor Greg Newbold says Wilson has served 20 years in jail, has paid the price of his crimes and needs to be given a chance.

Mr Newbold believes the chances of Wilson reoffending are very slim. He says Stewart will be living in a completely controlled environment - which is good, as he will need protection from the public.