Patrick Michael George Norton-Bennett
NZ Herald story here
Nelson Mail story here
More from the Nelson Mail 18/01/2007
A convicted murderer living in Nelson who was acquitted on a drug charge could be kept in jail despite the verdict, his lawyer says. A Nelson jury found Patrick Michael George Norton-Bennett, 58, not guilty of cultivating cannabis near his home - a charge that saw the Parole Board recall him to prison last July. He returned to prison after being acquitted of the charge on Tuesday and is due to come before the board again in July. Norton-Bennett was found guilty of a drug-related murder in 1988 and was also a player in the Mr Asia drug cartel. Norton-Bennett's lawyer Tony Bamford said he was yet to receive instructions from his client but he expected Norton-Bennett would seek early release from prison based on his acquittal.
Mr Bamford didn't know what the chances were of Norton-Bennett getting early parole because the verdict did not dictate the board's decision. "It tends to approach the issue of evidence and proof of offending in a slightly different way to criminal courts." But the drug charge was the only "relatively serious offence" Norton-Bennett had been accused of during the last five years on parole, he said. Last February police found 109 cannabis plants growing near the Pigeon Valley Rd property that Norton-Bennett leased. In June 1988 Norton-Bennett and his then wife Jennifer Norton-Bennett were sentenced to life imprisonment after being found guilty of a 1986 drug-related murder in Coromandel. He was released from prison on June 25, 2001 on standard conditions for life.
In its July decision recalling Norton-Bennett to prison, the Parole Board said there was sufficient evidence for it to find Norton-Bennett had committed the cannabis offence. It also concluded Norton-Bennett posed an undue risk to the safety of the community. The board stated Norton-Bennett had a considerable history of offending, with about 50 convictions in New Zealand alone. About 17 of those were for violence, and about nine were drug related, including a conviction for cultivating cannabis in 1986. "Of course, these convictions go back some distance because of the lengthy period the respondent spent in prison for murder, but they are there and they indicate a pattern and indicate a serious concern about somebody with that sort of record."
It said the drug-related murder Norton-Bennett was convicted of involved an issue or dispute about cannabis or the cultivation of it. Mr Bamford had submitted Norton-Bennett was not an undue risk to the community and that the board could not make an order for recall on the basis that an offence had been committed when the charge had yet to be dealt with by the court. However, the board said it could deal with the question of whether an offence had been committed by applying the balance of probabilities standard rather than the standard of beyond reasonable doubt. The report said a probation officer had no cause for concern about Norton-Bennett's performance on parole or behaviour in the community, and the board had also read a letter about the turn Norton-Bennett said his life had taken over the past few years.
Date of Birth
Murder of 23 year old Robert James Gawith in the Coromandel district in 1986
Also drugs charges and a Nelson burglary in March 2010
Sentenced to "life" imprisonment in June 1988
Released on parole June 2001
Recalled to prison July 2006
Released from prison March 2007
Recalled April 2010
Paroled June 2010
Sentenced to two years in November 2011
Last known hearing November 2012
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OFFENCES / CONVICTIONS
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