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Chauvel "appalled" by release of teen's killer

Tue 19 Apr 2011 In: New Zealand Daily News View at Wayback

Charles Chauvel The decision to release one of the killers of teenager Jeff Whittington from prison despite being “a high risk of reoffending” has provoked Labour's Justice Spokesman Charles Chauvel to include a review of the parole system into the party's draft justice policy. Jason Morris Meads was one of two men who beat 14-year-old Whittington to death in Wellington 12 years ago, in a crime so brutal that boot marks were found on the boy's skull. Meads and accomplice Steven James Smith attacked the teenager because they decided he was gay. Meads was sentenced to life imprisonment in December 1999. He was released on March 7 this year on strict conditions, despite the Parole Board finding him to pose a "high risk of reoffending" and that his status was "unlikely to change while in custody". Chauvel is appalled by the decision and will add a review of the parole system into Labour's draft justice policy, which is going to caucus and the party's policy council soon for consideration. “I cannot see that it is worth keeping if it leads to the release of people like this who are clearly at a high risk of re-offending,” he says. “That is just dangerous to the public.” The Jeff Whittington murder: Meads and Smith picked Whittington up outside the Shell petrol station in Vivian St on 8 May 1999 and offered him a ride home, but drove him to Inverlochy Place. There they assaulted him by punching and kicking him, causing severe facial and head injuries, and abdominal injuries causing a perforated bowel. Boot marks were found on his skull after one of the defendants jumped on his head. Whittington later died in Wellington hospital of brain swelling and perforations to his bowel. Smith and Meads then went to the Kensington Inn on Kensington Rd before going home. When they got home, they told one of the people there that they had "fucked up a faggot and left him for dead". Meads also stated: "The faggot was bleeding out of places I have never seen before". Smith was laughing when this was said. In its report the Parole Board says Meads' conviction followed a history of versatile and increasingly serious offending which started when he was 16-years-old. It says while Meads has taken positive steps while in prison to address the causes of his offending, the journey has not been without its pitfalls. These include running a tax scam from Rimutaka Prison in 2007, breaching his release to work rules in 2009 by returning to his unit with chewing gum and batteries and being found using a cell phone in January this year. The Parole Board says it had a lengthy discussion with Meads about the cell phone incident and was not satisfied that it affected his risk. It says based on static factors Meads, now 36, is assessed as posing a high risk of reoffending, “This is unlikely to change while in custody. However, we are satisfied that with the very strong support that he has in the community both from family members and friends, his clear view of the future, his commitment to change and mature outlook, that risk can be appropriately managed in the community,” it says. “We accept that Mr Meads has matured during the course of his incarceration. He is a good worker and is keen to work. However, he needs ongoing interaction with a psychologist to assist him in his reintegration into society and to discuss potential obstacles before they arise. He is very aware of the part that alcohol abuse played in his offending and is determined not to consume alcohol in the foreseeable future. He is also resolved to abstain from illicit drugs.” Meads was released on 7 March and is on the standard life-long conditions. For the next five years he must also attend alcohol and drug assessment and counselling, have psychological assessment and counselling and must not engage in any employment or volunteer work, paid or unpaid, without the prior written approval of the Probation Officer. Meads is also banned from consuming or possessing alcohol or illicit drugs and must remain at his parole address at all times, unless an absence from that residence has been authorised by a Probation Officer, and to comply with the special conditions of Residential Restriction for six months. He is strictly forbidden from any contact with the Whittington's family without prior written consent of his Probation Officer.    

Credit: Daily News staff

First published: Tuesday, 19th April 2011 - 11:20am

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