8 Aug 2019

Petition to protest convicted paedophile's release in Wairarapa

12:09 pm on 8 August 2019

Wairarapa residents concerned a convicted paedophile could be released to their community have started a petition to protest against him returning.

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A Wairarapa woman has begun a petition to stop a paedophile from being released back into the area. Photo: 123RF

Masterton man Kenneth Robert O'Reilly, 75, has been convicted of sex offences against children and a vulnerable young adult over more than four decades, from 1962 until 2008.

His latest 6.5 year jail stint ends on 22 August, and officials have said there is a high risk he will reoffend.

O'Reilly gained access to his victims through trusted relationships with the victims' parents, families, and in one case his membership at the Wairarapa Railway Restoration Society.

He served as the club's president, even after being convicted of sexually assaulting a child.

The club did not respond to requests for comment, but photos taken by O'Reilly remain on their website.

O'Reilly's former neighbour, Brittany Matthews, has got over 100 signatures so far for her petition calling for him not to be released back to Wairarapa.

She said the community needed to be aware of him to guard against him, and she didn't believe he would stick to strict release conditions designed to protect the community.

"I don't think there's been enough information at this stage, that's why we started a petition. There's not enough awareness ... a lot of people don't realise."

O'Reilly will be released under a set of high-court-imposed conditions that can be applied where a prisoner is deemed to "have a pervasive pattern of sexual offending."

However, the conditions will last for five years, not the 10 years requested by the Department of Corrections.

He's banned from entering Masterton during those five years, forbidden from loitering near schools, parks or recreational facilities, and will be electronically monitored.

But Ms Matthews said she didn't trust that O'Reilly would not return to Masterton, despite the release conditions, and said when the five years supervision was up he would still be a danger.

She said parents needed to have conversations with children about keeping safe, and that the community was safer if people shared information about sexual offenders.

Release a 'difficult time for victims'

Advocate Ken Clearwater from the group Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse said the release of abusers back into the community was always a difficult time for victims.

He was worried that O'Reilly's conditions didn't ban him from Carterton, where some of the abuse took place.

"It'll be traumatising, just them knowing that he's going to be released, regardless of where he is, will be traumatising and will bring back everything that happened to them, which will be damaging.

"And also then to allow him to go into places where he's offended is totally irresponsible on the Corrections role."

Mr Clearwater said victims should be kept informed of O'Reilly's presence in the community.

Carey Ewing works with Pathways Trust to help support men and women leaving prison and returning to the community.

He said prisoners who struggle with difficult reintegration into the community are more likely to reoffend.

"It's our experience that the better supported and coordinated that release is into the community the stronger the likelihood that that transition will be successful, which will be to the benefit of both the community and the individual in question.

"The best way that we see that that can happen is where the community actually recognises that everybody in prison came from our communities, and at some point they all need to come back."

The Department of Corrections can apply to have O'Reilly's supervision period extended if he shows concerning behaviour during the five years supervision.