Pullens: We're political pawns in 'no body no parole' mess
THE parents of slain Mackay man Timothy Pullen say they feel like "political pawns" after they were paraded around by government ministers while being kept in the dark over the approved parole of one of the men involved in their son's death.
After the death of their son in 2012, Leanne and Gary Pullen have advocated strongly for amendments to the No Body No Parole legislation, after Timothy's body was never found.
In Mackay yesterday, the Pullens said they felt deceived after discovering the Parole Board had approved the release date of one of Timothy's killers and failed to tell them, even when they were attending a press conference in relation to the legislation being passed.
Minister for Corrective Services Mark Ryan yesterday admitted he had known Benjamin Francis Graeme Oakley had been granted parole when he met with the Pullens in Brisbane last week, but was bound by confidentiality of the Corrective Services Act.
Mrs Pullen was notified in June that Oakley, who was sentenced to eight years in jail for manslaughter in May 2016, had applied for parole.
She wrote a submission objecting to his release, which was received by the board on July 12.
Less than three weeks later, on July 31, Oakley's parole had been approved for November 13, unbeknownst to the Pullens.
"I was in total disbelief, because he's not eligible for parole until November so I thought there is no way in the world that the Parole Board would have made a decision," Mrs Pullen said. "Never mind, made a decision before the No Body No Parole legislation was passed in parliament the following week."
Leaked emails obtained by The Australian revealed the office of Minister for Corrective Services Mark Ryan was aware that Mr Oakley's parole had been approved, despite congratulating the Pullens at a media conference last week.
Mrs Pullen said she felt like an "absolute heel" after they shook hands, hugged and were congratulated by Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath and Mr Ryan after the amendments passed.
"To me, what was the point of standing there with us, congratulating us on a great job, when they knew that one of our perpetrators had been granted parole," she said. Now, she is less confident her son's body will ever be found.
"The more people that get out of jail, obviously the less chance we are going to have of ever being able to find Tim and respectively say goodbye to him," she said.
"At the end of the day that's always been our goal, to know where Tim is."
Mrs Pullen labelled it a "hasty decision".
"With a parole decision it can take up to six months to make that decision and because he isn't eligible for parole until November, for the life of me I don't understand why they made that decision in July, prior to this legislation," she said.
At a press conference yesterday afternoon, Mr Ryan said he had been aware that Oakley's parole had been approved, but had been unable to discuss the details with the Pullens.
"I've got confidentiality obligations under the act," Mr Ryan said. "No one is above the law and no one could expect that the police minister... could breach the law in respect of any act, but let alone in respect to the confidentiality requirements under the Corrective Services Act."
Mr Ryan said he had spoken with the president of the Parole Board, Michael Byrne QC, who assured him "decisions on the grant of parole would be reviewed in line with the No Body No Parole legislation".
In addition, he said, the president assured him "no decision was final" until that person walks out of prison.
LNP Shadow Corrective Services Minister Tim Mander called the debacle "a complete disgrace" after speaking to Mr and Mrs Pullen yesterday.
"Surely they have been through enough," Mr Mander said.
"This legislation is supposed to help them find some closure and justice ... but they have had another sleepless night because they were used as pawns in a media conference after the laws were passed last week."
In regards to Oakley's parole, Mr Ryan said: "I understand that the president of the Parole Board is reviewing all of those decisions around the grant of parole in respect to the No Body No Parole legislation".
Late last month, Luke Shayne Kister was released on parole from Capricornia Correctional Centre after serving nearly 14 months for his role in dumping Timothy John Pullen's body five years ago.
'No final decision will be made concerning the prisoner's application for parole'
Parole Board president Michael Byrne QC issued a statement Thursday morning, confirming that the parole board had granted "a certain prisoner" parole on July 31, 2017.
"Such grant was done on the basis of the then current legislation. That grant of parole was to commence on 13 November 2017," Mr Byrne said.
"So that there is no ambiguity, the Prisoner has not yet been released into the community on parole."
Mr Byrne then stated that on August 10, 2017 the State Parliament passed the Corrective Services (No Body, No Parole) Amendment Bill.
"Following the enactment of the Bill, in practice, the only prisoners to which the amendments as contained in the Bill will not apply are: those who are already on parole in the community at the time of commencement of the Bill.
He stated that, 'as the Prisoner has not yet been released on parole the Parole Board Queensland must, pursuant to the Bill, take into account the following:
- A report provided by the Commissioner of Police about whether the prisoner has cooperated and if so, an evaluation of the prisoner's cooperation;
- Any information the Board has about the capacity of the prisoner to give the cooperation;
- The transcript of any proceedings against the prisoner for the offence, including any relevant remarks made by the sentencing court; and
- Any other information the Board considers relevant.
- Accordingly, no final decision will be made concerning the Prisoner's application for parole until the above information has been received and considered by the Parole Board Queensland.
CORRECTIVE Services Minister Mark Ryan has defended a decision not to tell the Queensland parents behind new "no body, no parole" laws that their son's killer already had been granted parole ahead of a government press conference.
Leanne and Gary Pullen, whose son Timothy was killed in 2012, campaigned for the new laws but say they now feel duped by the "deceitful" actions of Mr Ryan, following revelations he knew the parole board days earlier had approved the November parole of Benjamin Francis Oakley, one of the men convicted over ther son's death.
Mr Ryan yesterday insisted he did not tell the Pullen family what was happening ahead of the press conference the Pullens gave alongside him and Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath as he did not have authority to and had been reassured the parole decision was being reviewed in line with the new laws.
"We stood there hugging and shaking hands and being congratulated and (Mr Ryan) had this great big dirty secret," Mrs Pullen said.
"They were totally deceitful. I feel utterly duped by them, by the dishonesty."
At a press conference yesterday afternoon, Mr Ryan said he was yet to speak to the Pullens but he was sorry if they felt betrayed.
"I am sorry the Pullens feel this way, and my heart goes out to them," he said.
"I am always happy to offer my personal apologies to people who feel that way, and that will be something that I will do with the Pullens."
Mr Ryan said Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath was unaware of the parole board's decision or the review at the time of the press conference.
During the trial of the men convicted of killing Timothy, the Pullens made the heartbreaking decision to allow their son's killers to plead to the lesser charge of manslaughter in exchange for taking police to his body, which was never found despite a search of an identified bush grave.
Oakley was convicted over Timothy's death and given an eight-year prison term. He was due for parole in November.
Mr Ryan's office was notified of the decision on August 4 with the Minister being briefed on August 7. He then met with parole board president Michael Byrne on the evening of August 9, less than 24 hours before the press conference with the Pullens would be held.
"I stand by the decision that I made to keep that confidential information confidential," Mr Ryan, who was yesterday in damage control over the revelations, said.
"The president of the parole board assured me that no decision around the grant of parole is final until that person walks out of jail."
Mr Ryan said the new laws would apply to others still currently serving jail time over Tim's death.
Mrs Pullen said she was yet to hear from anyone in government as of 5.30pm yesterday.
"I don't even care if (Mr Ryan) doesn't ring me," she said.
"To me, it's too little, too late."
Opposition Leader Tim Nicholls - who will refer the matter to the Crime and Corruption Commission for investigation - said the saga "would disgust most people".