Parole decision angers Dunbars

Nate Dunbar died when a car crashed into his family’s Merriwa home in 2013.
Nate Dunbar died when a car crashed into his family’s Merriwa home in 2013.

THE woman responsible for eight-month-old Nate Dunbar’s death will not be allowed to drink and will have to attend substance abuse counselling, a judge says.

The toddler died when a car crashed into his family’s Merriwa home in January 2013.

Having pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing death, Melissa Ann Waters will be released on parole on or after July 24.

She will have served 22 months of her three-year, eight-month sentence.

Prisoners Review Board chairman Robert Cock QC said the board decided on June 30 that releasing Waters “would not present an unacceptable risk to the safety of the community”.

Mr Cock said reasons the board reached that decision included the deterrent effect of a first term in prison on the mother-of-three.

He said her participation in the intensive choice, change and consequences program was another reason, with the treatment report last September detailing awareness of factors which contributed to her offending and the development of a safety plan to manage these.

“Her release plan has supportive and long-term accommodation with family and includes employment, as well as ongoing support with Ruah and Holyoake,” he said.

“(Another reason is) her voluntary participation in a variety of courses and counselling, which can continue in the community.”

Mr Cock said the parole conditions – including a ban on contact with Nate’s family and on entering Merriwa or Quinns Rocks’ would further reduce the risk Waters posed to community safety.

He said Waters was not allowed to consume alcohol, had to submit to random breath tests by police, could not enter licensed premises and had to attend substance abuse counselling and other programs.

Nate’s mother Stacy said she was disappointed with the parole decision. She said the administrator of the Justice for Nate Facebook page shared her reaction to a call from the parole board on its decision.

“She will finish her non-parole period on July 24, after one year, 10 months, with one year and eight months of that time spent in Baronia Pre-release Centre (for women), not Bandyup (women’s prison),” Mrs Dunbar said in the post.

“We are very disappointed with this result.

“We wanted her to spend every minute of her three-year, eight-month sentence in Bandyup. We tried very, very hard to keep her in there, but ultimately it was out of our control.”

Speaking on radio last week, Mrs Dunbar said the sentence should have been longer and the parole decision brought back the pain of losing her son.

“It’s still such a kick in the guts – it really hurts,” she said.

Mrs Dunbar said she did not know how restrictions on the release, such as Waters not being allowed in Merriwa or Quinns Rocks, would be policed.

The Dunbars started an anti-drink driving campaign, called Pledge for Nate, in late 2013 which they continue to promote.

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