A life sen­tence

A web of de­ceit has seen a young man wrongly im­pris­oned and his life ru­ined. Jared Sav­age re­ports

Weekend Herald - - News - THE 17-YEAR-OLD Pa­trick and Mark are not their real names, which are sup­pressed by the Court of Ap­peal.

For his 17th birth­day, Pa­trick got a box of Roses, a koala key ring and a rape con­vic­tion. On the koala’s paws are stamped the words Good Luck. “I still have that koala as a re­minder of how my life was ru­ined,” says Pa­trick, who turns 31 next month.

Branded a dan­ger­ous sex preda­tor as a teenager, con­sid­ered re­morse­less for re­fus­ing to ad­mit wrong­do­ing, Pa­trick was sent to prison for a crime he didn’t com­mit.

His con­stant claims of in­no­cence counted against his re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and un­der­mined his chances of pa­role. So he served ev­ery day of his 4 ½ year sen­tence.

But his prison time was far from over.

He spent most of the next seven years bounc­ing in and out of prison for trip­ping up on the strict re­lease con­di­tions ac­com­pa­ny­ing his sta­tus as a sex of­fender.

Sim­ply say­ing hello to a child was enough for him to be locked up again.

By the end of 2016, Pa­trick had been be­hind bars for breach­ing the re­lease con­di­tions al­most as long as the orig­i­nal rape sen­tence.

In­cred­i­bly, although his “vic­tim” con­fessed to mak­ing up the al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual as­sault a year af­ter Pa­trick was con­victed, the mis­car­riage of jus­tice re­mained hid­den for an­other decade.

“I told ev­ery­one I was in­no­cent,” tells the Week­end Her­ald. “How did I go from be­ing the vic­tim to the vil­lain?”

His story be­gins in Waikato Hos­pi­tal, where he was born in De­cem­ber 1987, the el­dest child; he had a younger brother and two lit­tle sis­ters. His child­hood was un­sta­ble. He re­mem­bers mov­ing around. Booze and drugs were as com­mon at home as milk or bread for other fam­i­lies. By the age of 4, Pa­trick had suf­fered sex­ual abuse at the hands of two male rel­a­tives.

His fa­ther was vi­o­lent; a “boot up the arse” or hid­ings with the jug cord for the kids, closed fists for their mother.

“Drugs, al­co­hol and cig­a­rettes came first, sec­ond and third for Dad,” says Pa­trick. “Mum tried her best to keep us safe. A roof over our heads, food in our stom­ach.”

His par­ents split when Pa­trick was 6or7.

Their home was trashed af­ter one fi­nal act of vi­o­lence, so Pa­trick and his sib­lings went into state care.

“Mum said she just needed a week to clean the place up. One week turned into two, two into three. Eight, nine years later we were still in foster homes.” says Pa­trick.

The sib­lings were shifted to live with rel­a­tives in ru­ral Waikato. It was Pa­trick’s longest Child Youth and Fam­ily place­ment and, he says, the “worst part of our lives”.

“We were out of the fry­ing pan and into the fire. We were scared shit­less and on edge most of the time.”

Nine chil­dren were in the care of a mar­ried cou­ple, a blend of their own chil­dren, grand­chil­dren and foster chil­dren like Pa­trick. The chil­dren of­ten had to fend for them­selves while the care­givers drank or played bingo with neigh­bours.

When they were be­ing su­per­vised by adults, it was to make sure they were do­ing their chores.

Clean­ing the house, mow­ing the lawns, or work­ing around the farm — there wasn’t any time to play with friends, no toys.

The foster chil­dren were treated poorly, says Pa­trick, cer­tainly com­pared to the cou­ple’s own chil­dren. Any gifts or cloth­ing they were given were con­fis­cated and handed to the cou­ple’s chil­dren.

When the other kids picked on them Pa­trick and his sib­lings were pun­ished for stand­ing up for them­selves.

“No mat­ter who was right, or wrong, we would al­ways get done for it.”

As was the case when liv­ing with their own par­ents, Pa­trick and his sib­lings were beaten reg­u­larly.

But even worse was the sex­ual abuse.

In the mid­dle of the night, the male care­giver woke the chil­dren and touched them. He made them touch each other. He al­lowed his son to touch them.

The cy­cle of abuse spi­ralled into a pat­tern of de­struc­tive be­hav­iour which even­tu­ally put Pa­trick in prison.

“It’s f***ed me up big time. It’s f***ed up my brother and sis­ters big time . . . no one talks about it, we just bury it.”

When Pa­trick was 13 or 14, the sib­lings were split up and sent to dif­fer­ent homes.

His next care­givers were kind, says Pa­trick, but un­able to deal with him.

He was an­gry, frus­trated — get­ting into fights at school, smok­ing drugs, stay­ing out late.

So again, he was packed up, this time to Fe­lix Don­nelly Col­lege in Auck­land, a school for chil­dren in the care of Child Youth and Fam­ily (CYF) with se­ri­ous be­havioural and emo­tional prob­lems.

And that’s where he met Mark, who was of a sim­i­lar age.

They were liv­ing in a home run by the Youth­link Fam­ily Trust, an or­gan­i­sa­tion con­tracted to CYF to care for trou­ble­some teens.

They didn’t get along and had to be sep­a­rated.

Their care­givers, Leo and Karla van de Geer, put the ri­valry down to Mark be­ing jeal­ous of Pa­trick’s close re­la­tion­ship with Don McNaughton.

McNaughton also worked at Youth­link, where he or­gan­ised work ex­pe­ri­ence for trou­bled teens.

Kids flocked to McNaughton, who took them out on his farm and let them muck around on the quad bike.

When Mark came along, McNaughton was still spend­ing oneon-one time with Pa­trick and was proud of his progress.

“There was a bit of a per­son­al­ity clash be­tween [the teenage boys] about who ‘owned’ Don,” Leo van de Geer later told a court.

Mark would taunt Pa­trick, said Karla van de Geer, by say­ing; “He [McNaughton] doesn’t want to work with you, that’s why he’s work­ing with me now.”

EV­ERY­THING CAME to a head on

Easter Sun­day 2004.

Pa­trick was watch­ing kapa haka on tele­vi­sion in the lounge when Mark told him to turn around.

He and a third boy were touch­ing each other, says Pa­trick. They asked him to join in.

“I told them to ‘shut the f *** up’ or I’d beat them up. I just tried to zone out.”

Pa­trick says the third boy came to­wards him. “He put his hand on me and I just snapped. I hit him.”

Mark and the other boy went away. Five min­utes later Leo van de Geer walked into the room.

The oth­ers had ac­cused Pa­trick of punch­ing the third boy — which he ad­mit­ted promptly — but also of touch­ing him in­ap­pro­pri­ately.

“One thing led to an­other and I ab­so­lutely lost the plot.”

He picked up the tele­vi­sion and threw it, break­ing the wall. He smashed a win­dow in his bed­room, then went out­side, grabbed a spade and smashed two more win­dows.

He was look­ing for the other two boys, threat­en­ing to hurt them.

Fi­nally, Pa­trick threw the spade through the kitchen win­dow, so had it lodged side­ways in a wall.

He was kicked out of Fe­lix Don­nelly Col­lege.

Pa­trick went to live in Hamil­ton, while Mark went to live with Don McNaughton — the source of his jeal­ousy to­wards Pa­trick — and his part­ner Pa­tri­cia Thrupp.

The next month, Pa­trick was ar­rested. Then 16, he thought it was be­cause of his vi­o­lent out­burst in Auck­land.

But soon af­ter mov­ing in with McNaughton and Thrupp, Mark made some dis­turb­ing al­le­ga­tions.

Thrupp alerted CYF, who told the po­lice.

Mark ac­cused Pa­trick of rap­ing him at knife­point and forc­ing him to per­form sex acts on him.

An­grily, Pa­trick de­nied al­le­ga­tions put to him in sus­tained and graphic de­tail by a de­tec­tive.

But while Pa­trick was adamant Mark’s al­le­ga­tions were an ugly lie, the in­ves­ti­ga­tion also un­cov­ered an ugly truth.

A younger fe­male rel­a­tive said Pa­trick (15 at the time) had touched her through her un­der­wear twice.

“Yes, I did that to her,” says. “That’s some­thing I have a hard time deal­ing with.”

A psy­cho­log­i­cal re­port for the Cor­rec­tions Depart­ment said Pa­trick’s sex­ual be­hav­iour was mod­elled from pornog­ra­phy and the sex­ual abuse he suf­fered.

“When both he and [his vic­tim] be­came vic­tims of sex­ual of­fences, [Pa­trick] in­ter­nalised this sex­ual be­hav­iour as ac­cept­able,” the re­port says.

Even now, Pa­trick strug­gles with psy­chol­o­gists try­ing to ex­plain his be­hav­iour. Though his own abuse might be a rea­son, he doesn’t want an ex­cuse.

“The coun­sel­lors say ‘it’s not your fault’, or ‘you were just act­ing on what hap­pened to you’, or ‘you thought this was af­fec­tion’,” says Pa­trick.

“When I was a kid, I might not have un­der­stood why I did that. But deep down you still have an un­der­stand­ing, an in­stinct, of right and wrong. And it was wrong.”

Pa­trick pleaded guilty to in­de­cent as­sault on a girl younger than 12 and wil­ful dam­age to the van de Geers’ home.

On eight other charges — one more of in­de­cent as­sault against the same girl, seven stem­ming from Mark’s al­le­ga­tions — Pa­trick main­tained his in­no­cence.

His trial took place in the Hamil­ton Dis­trict Court in De­cem­ber 2004.

On the fourth day, the jury re­tired. It was also Pa­trick’s 17th birth­day.

His lawyer, Brandt Short­land, was con­fi­dent of an ac­quit­tal and told him not to worry.

While wait­ing for the jury, Short­land gave him a birth­day present: a box of Roses choco­lates and the koala keyring.

Then knock, knock, knock on the door.

The jury was ready. “Guilty, guilty, guilty,” says Pa­trick.

He was con­victed of all but two charges, in­clud­ing the two most se­ri­ous of­fences of rape.

“I re­mem­ber like it was yes­ter­day. I didn’t know what to think. I had to be es­corted to the cells, I just broke down . . . cry­ing . . . say­ing I was in­no­cent.”

A pro­ba­tion re­port said Pa­trick was co-op­er­a­tive in the in­ter­view and high­lighted his “un­for­tu­nate and abu­sive child­hood” but noted his on­go­ing de­nials.

At sen­tenc­ing, this did him no favours with Judge Mere­lina Bur­nett.

“It is con­cern­ing that the pris­oner shows lit­tle or no re­morse for the of­fend­ing, re­fus­ing to even ac­cept that it oc­curred,” her judg­ment said.

“Un­less re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion dur­ing the im­pris­on­ment pe­riod is achieved, in my view the pris­oner will re­main a vi­o­lent and dan­ger­ous sex­ual preda­tor or ag­gres­sor and care­ful as­sess­ment must be made at the time of his pa­role.”

Pa­trick was sen­tenced to 4½ years in prison. It was more of a life sen­tence.

shut him­self off, ig­nor­ing fel­low in­mates and re­fus­ing to let any­one into his in­ner cir­cle.

“I didn’t trust any­body. I was the vic­tim, yet there I was sit­ting in a cell clas­si­fied as a rapist, a sex of­fender.”

Be­cause he kept deny­ing his crimes, par­tic­i­pat­ing in sex­ual of­fender treat­ment pro­grammes was dif­fi­cult.

So he was de­clined early re­lease by the Pa­role Board. In 2005, 2006 and 2007 he was still deemed too much of a risk to the pub­lic.

He was mis­tak­enly un­der the im­pres­sion he would be in pris­on­for­ever un­less he agreed to do the Kia Marama sex of­fender course in Christchurch.

“I strug­gled . . . sit­ting in a room to say ‘I’m guilty, this is what I’ve done’ . . . putting my­self in the shoes of a vic­tim for some­thing that never hap­pened … just to get my­self out.”

Though he grad­u­ated from the re­hab pro­gramme, his in­ter­nal con­flict was noted by the psy­chol­o­gist in the group ses­sions.

“Vic­tim em­pa­thy has been limited to fe­male vic­tim and con­tin­ues to lack an emo­tional em­pathic ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the male vic­tim . . . re­mains su­per­fi­cial and ap­pears to be limited by per­ceived in­jus­tice to­wards him­self.”

Pa­trick served ev­ery day of his sen­tence.

With his re­lease date loom­ing in Novem­ber 2008, Cor­rec­tions staff main­tained that Pa­trick was a sig­nif­i­cant risk to the pub­lic.

So a Dis­trict Court judge im­posed an Ex­tended Su­per­vi­sion Or­der (ESO).

Such or­ders al­low Cor­rec­tions to mon­i­tor high­est-risk of­fend­ers for up to 10 years.

Nat­u­rally Pa­trick was not al­lowed to con­tact his al­leged vic­tims, or any­one else un­der the age of 16.

He was also or­dered to have coun­selling and take part in re­lapse preven­tion ther­apy.

Writ­ten ap­proval from his pro­ba­tion of­fi­cer was needed to start a new job or change his ad­dress, even stay away overnight.

Aged 20, Pa­trick left prison far from free and moved into an ap­proved res­i­dence in Hamil­ton.

By the end of the day, he had breached the ESO — sim­ply by hav­ing a meal at a church where chil­dren were present.

Pa­trick ex­plained he had been taken to the church and was so dis­turbed to see chil­dren, he took his meal out­side; so con­cerned about the ESO, he ate only half his food and ran home.

This started a pat­tern which saw Pa­trick bounced in and out of prison, mostly for tech­ni­cal breaches.

One was fail­ing to show up to a group ther­apy — “I hate sit­ting in there with those kid­die f***ers” was his reply to pro­ba­tion of­fi­cer — re­sult­ing in a nine-month prison sen­tence.

His com­pli­ance was noted as “ex­tremely poor” by the Pa­role Board — 14 breaches by Oc­to­ber 2013 — which tight­ened his con­di­tions even fur­ther, with 24/7 GPS mon­i­tor­ing.

This was de­spite Pa­trick’s lawyer Kristy

Li point­ing out there had been no sex­ual of­fend­ing, or even a sug­ges­tion of sex­ual in­tent, in his breaches.

“He again painted him­self as the vic­tim and tried to talk down the ques­tion­ing board mem­ber to the point when we had no op­tion but to ad­journ the hear­ing,” the Pa­role

Board re­port says.

The fol­low­ing year, an in­de­pen­dent psy­chol­o­gist rec­om­mended

Pa­trick be treated for the sex­ual abuse he suf­fered — rather than ther­apy for the crimes he was con­victed of. Oth­er­wise, Amanda McFad­den warned: “There is a very real risk of the pat­tern of breach and re­mand re­cur­ring and the longer term ben­e­fits of the ESO (pub­lic safety and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion) will be lost.”

How­ever, Pa­trick didn’t get the help he needed and kept go­ing back to prison. And in

the view of the au­thor­i­ties, his on­go­ing de­nials of the sex­ual of­fend­ing against Mark re­mained a bar­rier to re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion.

“I would go to my grave say­ing I was in­no­cent,” says Pa­trick.

“So I was back to square one, again.”

IT WAS Septem­ber 2015 be­fore Pa­trick left square one.

He was play­ing touch rugby in the yard at Waik­e­ria Prison near Te Awa­mutu when he was called into a room. Three lawyers, all strangers, were sit­ting across a ta­ble.

They ex­plained that Mark, the boy whose al­le­ga­tions put Pa­trick in prison 10 years prior, was seek­ing govern­ment com­pen­sa­tion for abuse in state care. While in­ves­ti­gat­ing the civil claim, the lawyers said the Min­istry of So­cial Devel­op­ment (MSD) had un­cov­ered ev­i­dence that could help prove Pa­trick’s in­no­cence. Mark had re­canted the rape ac­cu­sa­tions against Pa­trick soon af­ter mov­ing in with Don McNaughton and Pa­tri­cia Thrupp. The cou­ple had sup­ported Mark through­out Pa­trick’s trial, although 12 months later their re­la­tion­ship had de­te­ri­o­rated to the point that Mark was mov­ing out. “I will never for­get the night be­fore Mark left,” Thrupp said in her af­fi­davit sworn for the civil case.

The cou­ple were sit­ting with Mark in the lounge of the wool­shed they had con­verted into a home on their farm. The 17-year-old was an­gry af­ter McNaughton con­fronted him about pack­ing some items that be­longed to them. “Mark said, ‘You know about Pa­trick and what he did?’ And I replied, Yes’. Mark then said, ‘Well, you know he never ac­tu­ally raped me’,” wrote Thrupp.

Her hus­band re­called Mark say­ing “it was all shit about Pa­trick”.

His jus­ti­fi­ca­tion? Jeal­ousy over Pa­trick’s re­la­tion­ship with McNaughton.

“As soon as Mark said that it was like some­one punch­ing me in the chest,” wrote Thrupp.

“I thought ‘I’ve been had, he’s lied to me all along’. I was so af­fected by what he said; it made me feel sick and stunned.” Mark left the next morn­ing,

a Fri­day; Thrupp couldn’t bring her­self to hug him good­bye.

The con­ver­sa­tion con­sumed her over the week­end. As soon as she went to work on Mon­day morn­ing, Thrupp called Brandt Short­land, Pa­trick’s lawyer.

“I was very clear to Mr Short­land that Mark had said to me that Pa­trick never raped him and I said that I was re­ally wor­ried that Pa­trick had taken the rap for some­thing he hadn’t done,” Thrupp wrote in her af­fi­davit.

“I re­mem­ber Mr Short­land told me ‘I wouldn’t worry about it’ or words to that ef­fect. He said Pa­trick had nearly fin­ished his sen­tence and that he’s ‘a very sick boy’.

“Af­ter the con­ver­sa­tion ended, I left it at that. I be­lieved my in­volve­ment was at an end.”

But if Thrupp thought her con­ver­sa­tion would soon right the wrong­ful con­vic­tion of Pa­trick, she was mis­taken. It would not be for an­other 10 years that her call to Short­land would come to light.

It was not un­til the MSD in­ves­ti­gated Mark’s claim for com­pen­sa­tion that the ev­i­dence that would even­tu­ally free Pa­trick sur­faced.

Sit­ting in that room at Waik­e­ria, read­ing af­fi­davits by McNaughton and Thrupp for the first time, Pa­trick felt re­lief. Then rage. “I ab­so­lutely lost the plot. The prison of­fi­cers had to es­cort me out. I told peo­ple for years, ‘I’m in­no­cent’. But if Mark hadn’t claimed for com­pen­sa­tion, would this have even come out?”

Pa­trick’s case was taken up by Auck­land bar­ris­ter Phil Ham­lin, a for­mer Crown pros­e­cu­tor who

spe­cialised in sex­ual as­sault cases.

“I was con­cerned by what I read. I was very con­cerned noth­ing had been done for so long.”

Ham­lin took it to the Court of Ap­peal, which found Pa­trick had suf­fered a mis­car­riage of jus­tice and quashed the con­vic­tions stem­ming from his 2005 trial.

The court found it was un­fair for the jury to hear ev­i­dence from Mark and the young girl in the same trial.

An­other “com­pelling” rea­son for its find­ing was the ev­i­dence of Thrupp and McNaughton, both cros­sex­am­ined in front of Jus­tices Rhys Har­ri­son, John Wild and For­rest Miller. “It quickly be­came ap­par­ent each was a per­son of com­plete in­tegrity and forthright­ness,” the panel of se­nior judges said, dis­miss­ing Mark’s claim that he couldn’t re­mem­ber re­cant­ing the rape claims.

The Court of Ap­peal also ac­cepted that Thrupp had alerted Short­land to Mark’s con­fes­sion all those years ago.

“The fact that Mr Short­land took no steps in re­sponse is, to say the least, dis­ap­point­ing and most un­for­tu­nate.”

Short­land said he could not re­mem­ber many de­tails about Pa­trick’s case in­clud­ing Thrupp’s “very se­ri­ous” al­le­ga­tion, ac­cord­ing to his af­fi­davit on the court file.

Short­land, now a Coro­ner in Whangarei, de­clined to com­ment fur­ther to the Week­end Her­ald.

When con­vic­tions are over­turned, the Court of Ap­peal of­ten or­ders a new trial. Not this time.

There were sev­eral rea­sons, per­haps most sig­nif­i­cantly that the court didn’t think a sec­ond pros­e­cu­tion would be suc­cess­ful. “We have con­sid­er­able doubts as whether the Crown could se­cure a guilty ver­dict on any re­trial . . . we say be­cause Mark’s ev­i­dence is crit­i­cal but has been ex­posed as un­sat­is­fac­tory.”

With his con­vic­tions quashed, the ESO that weighed on Pa­trick like a dark cloud was lifted.

He was, fi­nally, a free man.

PA­TRICK WAS in Spring Hill Prison when he got the good news from Phil Ham­lin.

“I felt like the king of the world. In­vin­ci­ble . . . I don’t know how to ex­plain it, but for one day, ev­ery­thing that hap­pened to me was gone,” he says of his re­lease in March 2017.

Next month, he will turn 31. Yet an­other an­niver­sary of the day he was handed a koala bear key ring and a rape con­vic­tion.

It will be 14 years since his life was turned up­side. He’s a free man now, but not free of his past. He bears the psy­cho­log­i­cal scars of his child­hood and most of his adult years in prison.

It’s hard to get a job, or a roof over his head. Even if po­ten­tial em­ploy­ers un­der­stand his com­pli­cated life, he has no for­mal ed­u­ca­tion or em­ploy­ment CV to fall back on.

Rent­ing a house is hard too, as back­ground checks still pick up his crim­i­nal his­tory. It’s just too dif­fi­cult to ex­plain away in a short con­ver­sa­tion with land­lords.

“I thought it would be eas­ier on the out­side, but to be hon­est it’s harder,” says Pa­trick. “Some­times I think I’ll do some­thing bad and go back to jail, what I know best.”

He’s try­ing his best to be op­ti­mistic. He has a part­ner and they live with one of his aunts in the Manawatu.

Hope­ful of a job in the freez­ing works, Pa­trick is try­ing to move on, but it’s hard to shake his past.

Re­sent­ment lingers over the lies of Mark, the trusted adults who let him down, his years in prison, how long it took for the truth to come out.

But his deep­est anger is re­served for CYF and his suf­fer­ing in state care. In his words, they took him “out of the fry­ing pan and into the fire”.

Phil Ham­lin is look­ing into whether Pa­trick is el­i­gi­ble for com­pen­sa­tion for wrong­ful con­vic­tion, and, iron­i­cally, a sep­a­rate claim against the state for abuse in CYF care. Be­cause of his youth and the rel­a­tively mi­nor na­ture of the in­de­cent as­sault Pa­trick ad­mit­ted to, Ham­lin says his client would not have gone to prison.

So most of his youth was spent in prison be­cause of Mark’s now dis­cred­ited rape al­le­ga­tions.

“I think it’s ex­tra­or­di­nary it’s taken so long to be sorted out,” says Ham­lin. The con­se­quences have been huge. It’s wrecked his life.”

As for Pa­trick, he doesn’t re­ally care about any com­pen­sa­tion money.

“All I just want is for peo­ple to be­lieve me. Then I can move on.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.