Healer denied parole after mixed messages

Sonny Chin told the Parole Board he accepted his sentence but maintained he did not intentionally...
Sonny Chin told the Parole Board he accepted his sentence but maintained he did not intentionally abuse his victims. PHOTO: ROB KIDD
A disgraced Dunedin healer who sexually abused seven women has been denied parole after giving mixed messages about his retirement.

Sonny Hang Chin, 66, was jailed for three years and three months in June last year after being found guilty at trial on 10 counts of indecent assault, all of which were committed against female clients.

Chin told the jury his molestation of the victims was simply to release "energy" they had accumulated through historical trauma and his long-winded explanations continued in front of the Parole Board last month.

"The answer to most of the questions was circular," panel convener Serina Bailey said.

"Mr Chin constantly referred to the ‘energy’ which is generated, which he can read and which, in his view, makes his responses appropriate as to how he massages these victims."

The Rolleston Prison inmate said he accepted his punishment and would do his time, but maintained he had never intended to hurt anyone.

"To this board, there seems to be a total lack of insight as to the kind of physical touching with which Mr Chin engaged in and the potential impact on any of the victims," Ms Bailey said.

Chin was initially warned by police in 2016 after two women complained about his conduct, but the groping continued.

His modus operandi involved telling his female clients they had experienced sexual trauma, which was creating blockages in their energy flow.

Often his sex attacks occurred once he had worked up the victims into a heightened state.

One of his victims, Kristy Ovens, who voluntarily gave up her statutory name suppression, said Chin’s continued denials meant jail was the right place for him.

"He’s not remorseful at all. He’s still a slimy little critter and a predator," she said.

In a letter to the Parole Board, Chin said he had been "reflecting" while behind bars and planned to retire from work on his release.

But later in the hearing, Ms Bailey said he appeared to contradict himself.

"He talks about retiring on the one hand and yet his [release] plan covers topics about him potentially carrying on with his work. He said that if he continued with any work at all it would be non-body contact work," she said in a written decision released to the Otago Daily Times.

"Nearly every question was answered with his referrals to energy awareness and his intent not to hurt anybody."

Chin was a minimum security prisoner, working as a cleaner in his unit, and the board heard he had not met the threshold for psychological treatment.

Despite Chin’s crimes spanning many years and his repeated denials, he had been assessed as presenting a low risk of reoffending.

Chin told the Parole Board he wanted to remain in Dunedin, but significant concerns were raised by local victims.

Ms Bailey also raised concerns with the inmate’s safety plan.

"Essentially, to sum up, there is no clarity in Mr Chin’s ... plan as to what he is going to do and what that means. The plan needs to be completely revised with his case manager," she said.

"The board are also concerned that Mr Chin is practising within a therapeutic trusting environment without any oversight from a formal organisation.

"This has to be considered because it will not be difficult for Mr Chin to resume in his practice."

Chin will see the Parole Board again in December.

His sentence expires in June 2026.