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Mentally Ill Killer To Get Leave As Part Of Rehab

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Jonathan Coleman
Jonathan Coleman

By Maggie Tait of NZPA

Wellington, Oct 22 NZPA - A mentally ill killer to be allowed unescorted leave as part of his rehabilitation would not be allowed out if it wasn't safe, his carers and the Health Ministry said today.

Graeme Moyle wrote to Prime Minister John Key concerned Matthew John Ahlquist was being granted the leave.

Ahlquist killed Colin Edward Moyle in May 2007. Ahlquist bludgeoned him with a spade before setting him alight. A High Court judge in 2008 found him not guilty on the grounds of insanity and ordered him detained as a special patient at the Mason Clinic in Auckland.

The court was told Ahlquist killed Mr Moyle, 55, because he believed he was controlling him and he was convinced he was demonic.

Graeme Moyle said he and his family had "grave concerns" for public safety because Ahlquist, who had been having escorted outings, was now being let out on his own.

"Mr Ahlquist received 10 years of treatment for his illness (schizophrenia) from the Auckland District Health Board and his condition only worsened resulting in the murder of my brother."

A complaint about his treatment was the subject of a Health and Disability Commissioner inquiry.

"We are now expected to believe that after less than two years treatment in the Mason Clinic Mr Ahlquist is well enough to be given unescorted leave from that facility.

"I have my doubts."

Mr Moyle said violent acts of paranoid schizophrenics could not be predicted and when decisions were made to release them there appeared to be no accountability.

Associate Health Minister Jonathan Coleman said he understood Mr Moyle's perspective, but had been assured by Health Ministry mental health director David Chaplow that the release would be controlled and safe.

"The criminal justice system is something separate. This is a health issue and proportionality is not part of mental health law.

"This guy was sick, he did something terrible when he was sick, he's being treated and this is part of his treatment and the expert advice is this is an evidence based part of his treatment and it's safe for the public. The clinicians wouldn't let it happen if they didn't think it was safe."

Mason Clinic clinical director Jeremy Skipworth said he could not discuss individuals because of privacy issues, but said leave was allowed generally for rehabilitation and for transfers or medical appointments and events like funerals.

Leave was only granted after approval from relevant authorities was granted and the clinician in charge was satisfied.

"The responsible clinician and key worker are accountable for ensuring it is appropriate for the leave to proceed. Whether it is appropriate for leave to proceed must always be assessed within the hour prior to any leave being taken."

Rehabilitation leave increased incrementally over time.

"The ultimate change from Special Patient status is a decision made by the Minister of Health, and typically will only follow a lengthy period of incident free community care."

Dr Coleman said recidivism for such offenders was rare.

"In 30 years of doing this they've never had anyone who has repeated the (same) offence."

The recidivism rate -- for any criminal offending -- over five years was 1 percent.

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