Serial rapist Joseph Thompson worried about what other inmates think

One of New Zealand’s worst serial rapists is apprehensive about doing a child sex offenders programme for fear of what other inmates might say about him.

Joseph Thompson, who was sentenced in 1995 to 30 years’ preventive detention for the rape and sexual violation of nearly 50 women and young girls, became eligible for parole last year. His real number of victims is believed to be closer to 70.

At a recent hearing members of the Parole Board told Thompson he had a “prolific history of offending”, and it was recommended he take part in a child sex offender treatment programme, and possible an adult sexual offender programme after that, as part of his treatment plan.

“Your offending was absolutely prolific, if not horrific … that’s another reason for you to realise this is going to be a long haul.”

Thompson, who was known as the South Auckland rapist, evaded police for 12 long years before a DNA sample finally led to his long-awaited arrest.

During his reign of terror, residents lived in fear – parents wouldn’t let their children walk to school, extra locks were added to doors and windows, some took to keeping baseball bats at arms reach, and vigilante groups were formed.

He often struck at night, targeting women and children who were home while husbands and fathers were working, and chose a knife as his weapon of choice.

Thompson acknowledged a lot of his offending was against children and a child sex offender treatment programme was an appropriate thing to do.

He told members of the board that he felt he had come a long way since being sent to jail – but acknowledged he still had a long road ahead of him.

“When I first came in to prison I gave up smoking cigarettes. I haven’t touched drugs or alcohol and all those things are freely available to us.”

“I have even given up things like swearing. I know that’s a little thing but all the things I have achieved highlight self-control and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

“I’m willing to do as much as I can … I have been looking forward to doing anything towards rehabilitation.”

Rehabilitation programmes, like child and adult sexual offending programmes, haven’t been available to Thompson until now because he hadn’t served his non-parole period of 25 years until last June.

However, despite saying he was willing to do anything towards rehabilitation, he told the board he was apprehensive because he knew other inmates talked about things that happened during the sessions that were meant to be confidential.

“I have seen inmates come back from these programmes and they are sharing what the inmates said.”

“I don’t want to be put in that situation where I have to contend with that sort of thing.”

Board members acknowledged in their parole decision that Thompson’s conduct in prison had been “mostly good” and he was seen as reliable in the kitchen where he works.

In regards to Thompson’s concerns about the child sex offenders treatment programme the members explained to him the significance of it in terms of a risk assessment later on.

They also flagged he may need to do it again before parole was considered.

“(It) may be a repeat participation in that programme would be required, as well as the possibility of attendance at the adult sex offender treatment programme or individual psychological treatment. We would add that consideration no doubt will need to be given to him undertaking the special treatment unit violence programme and possibly the drug treatment programme.”

The board found that Thompson, who did not apply for parole at the hearing, remained an undue risk to society and could not be released.

“I realise I have got a long way to go … I have spent 25 years in here now and I have had a long time to think about it,” he said.

One of his victims told the Herald last year that while she forgave the man who raped her twice while she was at home with her young children, he should never be released.

“It’s one thing to forgive him, it’s another to trust,” said the woman who can only be identified as Shirlee. “Would I have him out? Hell no, he needs to stay there.”

Thompson’s sentence was the harshest penalty dished out to anyone since the death penalty was abolished. Only a handful of longer ones have been imposed since.

“It is difficult to think of any person who has brought more pain and misery to so many people in recent New Zealand history,” Justice Fisher said while sentencing New Zealand’s first convicted serial rapist.

“You may either die in prison or be so old and weak when released that you can harm no one.

It will be at least another two years before Thompson will come before the Parole Board again.

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