Murderer declined parole

A convicted murderer Gareth Smither has ''regressed'', including an incident where he was smoking synthetic cannabis in a secure unit and switched his urine to avoid detection, the New Zealand Parole Board says.

Smither, who used a garden spade and a kitchen knife to kill former girlfriend Karen Jacobs in her Dunedin home in 1997, appeared before the board last month.

In a decision released yesterday, the board declined parole, and said it could postpone his next hearing for three years.

Smither appeared before the board in May last year, with the board noting he had made some clinical gains, including having some unescorted ground leaves.

But the board noted at that earlier hearing, while his progress was slow, it did not agree with the victim's family a postponement order should be made.

Since that appearance Smither had ''regressed'' and did not seek a release at his latest hearing, the decision noted.

Of concern were two ''significant incidents'' which affected his rehabilitation.

That included Smither disclosing to a clinical team in June last year that he had used synthetic cannabis and used another patient's urine to avoid detection.

Smither told the board he had been depressed and sought the synthetic cannabis to calm him.

''He accepted that he had broken the rules and said that he knows how close he got to being returned to prison.''

Smither said he had ''now moved on from that''.

However, his principal psychologist said she had no sense of his low mood around the time of the incident.

The board noted this ''is the very type of deceitful and dishonest behaviour'' which he exhibited at the time of his offence.

The second incident involved him smoking outside his unit in a non-smoking area.

The incidents were treated seriously by authorities and sparked an investigation by an independent psychiatrist.

It was decided Smither should remain at the undisclosed secure unit rather than return to prison.

He was later transferred back to a medium-secure forensic unit for observation for four months.

On returning to his open unit, he was again able to take part in escorted community leave by November.

The board noted the importance of Smither engaging with a psychologist to address his sexual and violent offending.

In regards to when he might be ready for parole, his clinical team noted ''there was still a lot of work to do''.

 

hamish.mcneilly@odt.co.nz

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