Ministry of Transport fraudster to be paroled and deported

Author
Anna Leask, NZ Herald,
Section
Crime,
Publish Date
Monday, 17 December 2018, 3:32PM
Joanne Harrison in the dock in the Manukau District Court. (NZME photograph)
Joanne Harrison in the dock in the Manukau District Court. (NZME photograph)

A former Ministry of Transport senior manager who was jailed for stealing $725,000 of taxpayers' money has been granted parole and will be deported from New Zealand.

And she is banned from returning.

Joanne Harrison, 52, was jailed for three years and seven months last February after pleading guilty to three charges of dishonestly taking or using a document.

A case led by the Serious Fraud Office found she had defrauded the ministry over a period spanning about 10 years while she was employed as a general manager.

Just as her theft was being discovered she fled New Zealand in 2016.

In March the Parole Board refused her an early release from prison.

But after a further hearing on December 6 Harrison was granted parole.

The board's decision has since been published in full.

Board panel convenor Kathryn Snook said Harrison was scheduled for a hearing in February however she successfully applied to be seen earlier on the ground she had been served with a deportation notice.

Harrison did not appeal the deportation notice and when released from prison, she will be sent back to the United Kingdom.

"As a result of the deportation notice Ms Harrison lost the reintegration pathway that she had been on," said Snook in the Parole Board decision.

"Due to her status as a deportee, her security classification has been increased and she is not able to reside in self-care and is no longer eligible for release to work."

Harrison's lawyer told the board that the fraudster had attended 42 individual counselling sessions since she was jailed.

She had also participated in workshops including trauma counselling as well as neuropsychological work to address faulty thinking.

Harrison told the board she had "benefited greatly" from the workshops as they required her "to strip herself bare and rebuild herself".

"Ms Harrison does not underestimate the challenges that she will face when she returns to the community," Snook said.

"However she sees herself as now being in the strongest position possible to return to the United Kingdom to live… and to begin a new life for herself."

Snook said the board spoke with Harrison about the risks that she will face back in the United Kingdom and her ongoing risk to the community.

"She said that initially she will be supported financially," Snook explained.

"She plans to investigate retraining in the nutritionist or mindfulness field.

"She said she has never offended in a fraudulent way in the United Kingdom and has no convictions there.

"She said she began thinking of fraudulent offending while residing there but did not offend."

Snook said the board also spoke with Harrison about her relationship with her parents, which had "issues".

"Ms Harrison said that the work she has completed, as well as the counselling her parents 
have undertaken, has enabled both sides to gain perspective on this.

"She sees their relationship as much stronger now.

"She said she writes to her parents every week and they speak every fortnight.

"The plan is that when Ms Harrison returns to England she will undertake counselling there. This will also involve her parents," said Snook.

The decision stated that the board had "residual concern" in relation to Harrison, noting that the deportation notice referred to allegations that she fraudulently created material to obtain her New Zealand visa in March 2006 in the skilled migrant category.

"Ms Harrison said today that she did misstate her previous role in her employment in the United Kingdom," Snook said.

"She also said that the letters of support were from real people and were real letters but they had not gone through the correct authorisations to provide those letters for her.

Snook revealed the deportation notice also contained "material to an outstanding warrant in Australia for offending".

Harrison told the board she "has no idea what that relates to".

"She says that all of her offending has occurred in New Zealand," Snook said.

"Ms Smith told the board that various legal counsel have been investigating the possible Australian warrant but at this stage they are not aware what that offending relates to or 
whether any further action will be taken by the Australian authorities."

Snook said despite having used "several different names to commit her fraudulent activities", Harrison intended to use her real name when she returned to the UK.

"She said that there is an awareness of her offending in the area to which she will be returning because the New Zealand media reports reached that location as well," Snook said in the decision.

"Clearly given the extensive fraud perpetrated by Ms Harrison in New Zealand, risk remains in relation to Ms Harrison.

"However, taking all of the material we have before us into account we are satisfied that she would not pose an undue risk to the safety of the community in the United Kingdom for the period remaining on her sentence - just over a year.

"She has completed extensive counselling in prison as well as the Short Rehabilitation Programme.

"She has informed support and supervision available to her in the United Kingdom, and she plans to undertake additional counselling there."

Harrison will be deported in January, as it will take some weeks to organise her removal from New Zealand.

Snook said she would be subject to standard parole conditions, but those would be suspended given that she will be immediately deported from New Zealand.

She will then be subject to a number of special conditions that will apply until her statutory release date of March 4, 2020.

The special conditions are that Harrison must be released "into the custody of the New Zealand Immigration authorities, or to the New Zealand Police, for deportation from New 
Zealand".

She is also banned from returning to New Zealand.

 

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