One of New Zealand’s most high-profile life parolees has avoided being recalled to prison after he was caught drink-driving last month.
Hugh Dean Wickliffe, 72, was paroled on June 3, 2020, with a three-month nightly curfew from 10pm to 5am imposed by the Parole Board, along with several other conditions.
His special conditions, which last for five years, included attending a psychological assessment, not possessing or consuming alcohol or taking illicit drugs and also submitting to electronic monitoring.
Wickliffe was sentenced to 80 hours of community work in the Tauranga District Court today after he earlier admitted a charge of breaching a special condition of his parole.
Outside court Wickliffe told the Bay of Plenty Times he was “very disappointed” in himself for giving in to temptation and did not plan to repeat his mistake.
“I’m now on a different journey and very motivated to put my years of offending behind me once and for all…I know I have made some mistakes and cannot afford to do so.
“Despite my age, I’m no invalid and am capable of working. In fact, I have a job starting on Saturday and want to also continue giving back to the community in any way I can.
“I’m a different person today from the person I once was. I have a lot to offer, particularly as a high profile ex-inmate helping speak out about the evils of meth use.”
A summary of facts revealed that on June 1 this year Community Corrections was alerted by police that Wickliffe had been arrested.
A breathalyser test revealed Wickliffe had a breath alcohol reading of 398 micrograms per litre of breath which is an adult drink-driving infringement notice offence.
His lawyer Tony Balme told Judge Ian Mill that Wickliffe sentencing was deferred until today for the Parole Board to deal with the possible prison recall matter.
Wickliffe has numerous prior convictions, including manslaughter, robbery, burglary, theft and drug offending.
He was first jailed in 1972 for killing Wellington jeweller Paul Miet during a robbery.
The initial murder charge was downgraded to manslaughter and he received a sentence of life imprisonment and has offended 33 times since.
Wickliffe has spent more than 40 years behind bars, and his parole conditions apply for life meaning he can be recalled to prison at any time.
However, Balme told Judge Mill that he had just received the Parole Board’s decision today, which confirmed the Board decided Wickliffe should not be recalled.
“As far as the Parole Board is concerned and it’s inherent in their decision, Mr Wickliffe does not pose an undue risk to the community,” he said.
Balme said the background to the breach was that Wickliffe was at a local hotel in Tauranga waiting for a prospective employer to interview him.
While Wickliffe was waiting for the employer to turn up, two current employees, who recommended him, offered him a couple of drinks, he said.
Balme said the prospective employer did not turn up and Wickliffe decided to drive home but some distance down the road he parked up and went to sleep in the driver’s seat.
Police knocked on his window and a subsequent breath test revealed he had been drinking and he was arrested, he said.
Balme said Community Probation recommended a sentence of community work as the appropriate sentence and offered to find Wickliffe a community placement.
Wickliffe had a lot to offer the wider community and he was already engaged in several pro-social community initiatives, he said.
This included being in charge of the Maketu community garden, delivering meals to
needy people and also speaking out against the scourge of P use around New Zealand.
Judge Mill said he was satisfied 80 hours of community work was appropriate in this instance in light of the Parole Board’s decision.
“You have done pretty well, Mr Wickliffe, with your release conditions so far, and I accept you can do a lot to help the community and should be given a chance to do so.
“But the last place you should be is spending time is at a hotel drinking.”
In 2018, Wickliffe released a book about his life, titled A Lifetime Behind Bars, and at the time he had spent 41 years in prison.
Wickliffe is the only prisoner to have escaped Auckland Prison Paremoremo twice.
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