Alfred Vincent has been in prison since just after the Wahine sank. At 78, he is frail and hard of hearing. But the Parole Board has decided yet again that he is not fit to be released. DEIDRE MUSSEN reports on the case of New Zealand’s longest-serving prisoner.
He looks as if he belongs in a rest home. A trembling smile fills his wrinkled face, a nervous expression appears in his only eye, and fresh batteries are in his hearing aids.
So why has he not been released?
The 78-year-old takes a seat beside his long-time lawyer, Michael Starling, at his latest parole hearing at Rolleston Prison, near Christchurch, and faces the panel of four.
After brief introductions, Starling admits there is no release proposal on the table, despite three years passing since Vincent, who grew up in Kaiapoi in Canterbury, last saw the board.
The reason is two-fold: unhealthy sexual desires and poor health.
“According to psychologist reports, despite his elderly age, he has a strong and persistent pattern of highly sexualised behavior,” panel convener and former High Court judge Marion Frater says.
“He is still sexualised to a high degree,” Starling confirms.
A silent Vincent nods.
“So age hasn’t been a mitigating factor?” Frater asks.
“He’s become less discriminatory,” Starling replies.
When new inmates arrive at his unit, Vincent becomes inappropriately excited.
“We did have him in the garden nursery, but the issue was the other younger prisoners. He got a bit enthusiastic,” his unit manager adds.
That sounds like a euphemism.
Old age makes many offenders safer, but not all. Sadly it looks like Mr Vincent will never be safe to release, and die in prison. That’s sad, but not as sad as releasing him and having a child sexually assaulted by him.