Scumbag has to spend another two years in slammer

A MAN convicted of raping and murdering a 75-year-old Invercargill pensioner will spend at least another two years behind bars – but after that, his fate remains unknown.

In 1996 Justin Ross Garthwaite, 46, was jailed for life, with a 14-year non-parole period, for the rape and murder of his elderly neighbour, Florence Bennett.

Garthwaite, then 27, bound her hands and taped her mouth during the attack, which ended in her death by suffocation.

Bennett’s son, Tony Bennett, later joined Norm Withers with his campaign for tougher sentencing of violent criminals. Withers’ mother Nan, 70, was severely beaten with a metal jack handle while tending her son’s menswear shop back in 1998.

Garthwaite recently appeared before the Parole Board – five years after he first became eligible for parole.

The board confirmed the convicted murderer and rapist was now taking medication necessary to deal with his ‘persistent anxiety issues’. Although wait-listed for ‘self-care and release-to-work’ programmes, any plan to reintegrate Garthwaite back into the community was someway off at present.

“The best we can say is that is a sentence management issue for Corrections. When prison management considers that is appropriate, it would appear to be a realistic reintegrative pathway,” the board said.   

In the meantime, Garthwaite was still undergoing rehabilitation through one-on-one counseling and accepted there was no urgency for him to appear before the Parole Board again.

The board said they had spoken to the family of Florence Bennett who were very much opposed to his release.

“For the moment, Mr Garthwaite is far from meeting the statutory requirement for release on parole as he is an undue risk to the safety of the community.”

He would next be seen in September 2017.

In a previous appearance before the Board, Garthwaite expressed an interest in becoming involved in the department’s Release to Work programme.

The programme allows minimum-security prisoners to do paid employment in the community to help them gain employment on their release.

However, at that hearing a psychologist found Garthwaite’s risk of further sexual offending was “moderately high”.

Meanwhile, a mentally ill Christchurch man convicted of the 1997 rape, sodomy and murder of a 78-year-old woman won’t be considered for parole for at least another year.

Jason Craig Mackerell has spent the past 18 years behind bars for the brutal murder and sexual attack on Aranui pensioner Catherine Florris Coster. He was also convicted in 1997 for an earlier rape of a 77-year-old woman in her Cashmere home in 1995, which DNA profiling linked him to after his arrest for Coster’s murder.

During his trial, it emerged that from the age of 18 Mackerell had suffered from bipolar disorder.

In a recent decision, the board noted that Mackerell had successfully completed the Adult Sex Offender Treatment programme and had engaged in one-on-one psychological and psychiatric treatment.

He had also recently started a new job as a cleaner at a building outside the prison gates.

However, despite this Mackerell accepted more work was required and he was not ready to be considered for parole for at least another 12 months.

cookStephen Cook is a multi award winning journalist and former news editor and assistant editor of the Herald on Sunday.

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