Jason Robert John Butler
From the Waikato Times 8th December 2014
A brutal murderer has been allowed to walk free three times a week to "refamiliarise himself with the community" and develop his computer skills, despite the Parole Board deeming him too dangerous for release. Jason Butler is one of a group of convicted killers who have swapped jail for mental health units while serving life sentences, becoming special patients under the Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act. As a result, they can get up to a week's unsupervised leave while under treatment, depending on doctors' recommendations, which must be approved by the director of mental health.
But some of their victims' families and friends are calling for an urgent review of such killers' leave after murderer Phillip Smith's brazen escape to Brazil during temporary leave from Waikato's Spring Hill prison last month. His escape led to a temporary halt of all inmates' leave and a Corrections Department review, but it didn't include convicted offenders in mental health care. A ministerial inquiry was launched to probe Smith's escape, but it was yet unknown whether it would include special patients' leave. "I think it bloody sucks because in two hours, he could be on my doorstep. That fellow got to Brazil, mate," the best friend of Butler's victim said about his three-times-a-week unsupervised leave.
Butler slit the throat of former partner Stephanie Baker, 26, after stabbing her multiple times in his parents' Tauranga home in July 1997 when she dropped off their one-year-old daughter. Baker's best friend, who requested anonymity because she feared for her safety, witnessed the horrific attack. Convicted as a sane killer, Butler was sent to jail for life, but has spent most of his sentence in mental health care, diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. "To me, he's a walking time bomb." Under law, registered victims, such as Baker's friend, are informed only when special patients are approved for unescorted leave for the first time.
In April, the Parole Board revealed that Butler started getting unescorted ground leave in October 2012 and last year began unescorted community leave three times a week. If he kept improving, he could gain approval for overnight leave in the community, its decision said. Another killer who could be granted unsupervised leave is Johnny Manu, who stabbed ACC worker Janet Pike to death in her workplace in 1999. He is now a compulsory inpatient at Auckland's Mason Clinic, diagnosed with schizophrenia. Pike's grieving husband, Steve Pike, said he had a breakdown several years ago when he discovered Manu could gain unsupervised leave into the community while in mental health care.
"It's abhorrent that anyone with that sort of history can even be considered for release. This guy could murder again." Manu's most recent parole decision in September said he was allowed supervised leave in the clinic's grounds, but noted he was "a significant danger if untreated". Pike said leave for killers in mental health services needed urgent review. The parents of murdered Dunedin woman Karen Jacobs agree. "I don't want anyone else to go through what we have," Maureen Watson said. She and husband John were horrified to learn after their daughter's killer Gareth Smither's last parole hearing in August, that his escorted leave into the community from Hillmorton Hospital was reinstated in November last year. This was despite his admitting smoking synthetic cannabis six months earlier and dodging detection by using a fellow patient's urine for a drug test.
The Press, Christchurch, April 8th 1998
After more than nine hours of deliberation, a High Court jury at Rotorua has found Jason Robert John Butler guilty of murdering his former partner, Stephanie Baker. Justice Giles last night sentenced Butler, 25, to the mandatory life imprisonment. Butler pleaded not guilty to murdering Miss Baker, the mother of his one-year-old daughter, at his parents' Tauranga home on July 18 last year. The court was told Butler stabbed Miss Baker in the back and throat when she arrived at his parents' home to drop off their daughter. Defence counsel Paul Mabey said Butler admitted the killing but claimed he was provoked.
Date of Birth
1973 (D.O.B. is approximate)
Three Strikes Status
Sentenced to a ten year life sentence in April 1998
Parole declined June 2009
Last known hearing June 2012
Additional Photos & Files
Associated Media Links Terri O'Dare forgives daughter's killer but not the justice system
OFFENCES / CONVICTIONS
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