New Zealand

Violent criminal to be released despite ‘very high risk of reoffending’

A man with a 10-page criminal record of appalling violence, including rape, must be released from prison within the next three months despite being considered “a very high risk of reoffending”.

William Spring Tawhai, 56, is in jail for wounding an ex-partner with intent to injure and two charges of assault on a person in a family relationship.

In May 2022, he was jailed by the High Court in Whangārei after he punched the woman repeatedly, knocked out one of her teeth and fractured her right eye socket and a finger, leaving her with a badly swollen face and bruising to her torso.

Tawhai was initially sentenced to preventive detention, with no parole for five years.

Preventive detention is an indeterminate prison sentence aimed at people who pose a significant and ongoing risk to public safety. People can be released when the Parole Board deems that risk has been reduced.

However, the preventive detention sentence was overturned by the Court of Appeal, and replaced with a three-year jail term, with no parole for two years.

Tawhai’s statutory release date is now January 11, 2024.

He came before the Parole Board for the first time in relation to this sentence last month. The board said his latest offending continued a pattern of “appalling” violence, largely against women, with more than 70 convictions.

These included a rape committed in 2007 when Tawhai was on a prison release-to-work programme in relation to a previous sentence.

He was released from prison in May 2018, and was jailed again nine months later for violence against a partner.

“He was out of prison for only a short time from that sentence when he committed his current offending against a different partner,” board panel convenor Kathryn Snook said.

Tawhai wants to live in Canterbury when released and told the Parole Board that he had had enough of returning to prison and wanted to change. He said he had no plans to enter another relationship and was willing to participate in treatment.

“As an untreated serious violent offender, he clearly remains a risk,” Snook said. “We are very concerned about Mr Tawhai’s risk.

“It seems to this board that he does remain a serious and very high risk of reoffending, particularly in the context of intimate relationships.”

Snook said the board would see Tawhai again in the week beginning December 11, when it would set the conditions for his release in January.

“We hope by then he has an approved release proposal. We want further information in the material before the board about whether an extended supervision order will be applied for in relation to Mr Tawhai,” Snook said.

An extended supervision order allows a person to be monitored closely by probation officers for up to 10 years.

In the meantime, the Parole Board said Tawhai should begin one-to-one treatment with a psychologist “as a matter of priority”.

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