11 Feb 2019

Arthur Taylor: From ‘breaking’ the law to ‘enforcing’ it

From Checkpoint, 5:15 pm on 11 February 2019

Career criminal Arthur Taylor says he's going to put the same "characteristics and abilities" he used to break the law into enforcing it, now he's been released from prison.

Taylor, who has spent 39 of the last 46 years in prison for multiple crimes, including forgery, aggravated robbery, arson, perverting the course of justice and escaping.

He was released from Waikeria Prison at dawn this morning after a 14-year stint inside.

Checkpoint's Lisa Owen was there when he was reunited with family and friends after the Corrections van rolled up on prison grounds and let him out as a free man.

He was released from prison with a $350 cheque and wearing clothes he bought from the Warehouse on Friday night, which he visited, wearing a GPS tracker and flagged by three Corrections officers.

Checkpoint followed him this morning as he caught up with friends Mike and Jenny, who gave him shoes and a laptop, selected his first meal outside of prison - a ham salad sandwich over pies and neenish tarts - and visited his sister Joanne's property, where he was reunited with her family.

There, he remarked how quiet it was, and how it was never quiet nor dark in prison, where he could read at night with the light shining through the windows from the spotlights outside.

The jailhouse lawyer has mounted several successful private prosecutions from behind bars and has campaigned for prisoners' rights to vote.

He told Owen he planned to continue fighting for others, and planned to study law while in Dunedin, where he had been paroled to.

He said he'd heard "a lot of really good stories about Dunedin" but had only been there once.

"Just when I passed through there in 1975 when I escaped from Invercargill borstal when I was in a hurry. I didn't stop to see much of the sights."

Asked if he regretted his past, he said he regrets all of it "now".

"I regret that my life hadn't been so much different, you know. That I hadn't ended up in Epuni Boys Home, that I hadn't been introduced to crime, become a criminal."

He last entered prison in his 40s, and now aged 62 he said he was "older and wiser" and "absolutely" planned to stay out of trouble.

"The number of people the public need to worry about, I'd probably be about number 10,020 or something. There's a hell of a lot of people in the queue in front of me. They don't need to be worried about me at all. Not at all."

He planned to channel the same energy he put into committing crimes in the past (he's accumulated more than 150 convictions) into upholding the law.

"I wasn't involved in enforcing the law back then, I was involved in breaking it. Now you want to be aware I actually enforce the law now.

"If Corrections or any of the other agencies I've had to take to court were complying with the law and complying with their own procedures and guidelines and being reasonable and fair, which is a touch-stone, then I wouldn't be able to take them to court because I'd fail.

"And when I take them to court I usually succeed. I can't succeed unless I've got the law on my side.

"Corrections has been fighting the law when I've been taking them on, and I'm winning."

Taylor refused to answer questions on whether he owned property and how much he received in income and paid in taxes last year, saying "no comment", but he did add "I won't be sleeping under a motorway bridge".

The history of Arthur Taylor: Epuni to prison, escapes and law work

Before his release this morning on parole, 'jailhouse lawyer' Arthur William Taylor had served 14  years in prison for multiple crimes, including possession of explosives, firearms, kidnapping and conspiracy to supply methamphetamine.

Missing school too many times was enough for the state to place an 11-year-old Taylor in Epuni Boys' Home, the first of three stays there, where he said he formed criminal associations with other children.

A psychological report written shortly after he arrived at Epuni said: "He appears as basically warm-hearted, good-natured, co-operative and easy going, with a tendency to be impulsive at times. He is also shown to be sentimental, emotional and artistic with a liking for people".

In 1972 he received his first criminal conviction, for forging entries in his savings bank deposit book.

In the early 1980s, Taylor began representing himself in court to seek reductions in his sentences, quashing convictions, or get his security classification downgraded inside prisons.

In 1998, he escaped with three others, including murderer Graeme Burton, from Auckland Prison by scaling the walls at Paremoremo and getting away in a waiting car.

They spent a few days in a millionaire's bach in the Coromandel. Taylor was returned to prison after a massive police hunt.

He was released after a 10-year sentence in 2001, but three years later did a further term of imprisonment after a conviction for drugs and firearms offences and possession of explosives.

He escaped again in 2005 while being taken to a family group conference in Wellington to discuss custody of his child. A criminal associate pointed an air pistol at two prison officers.

However, he was captured after falling through a ceiling onto a "startled" woman in a toilet cubicle.

He claimed that in 2006 he smuggled sperm out of prison, which was then used to successfully impregnated his (now former) wife, Carolyn.

Taylor's legal acumen began to be noticed after he launched a series of challenges in 2010 arguing a ban on smoking on prison property was unlawful. The High Court ruled in his favour three years later.

The High Court ruled in Taylor's favour in 2015, declaring that a statute that prohibited prisoners from voting was at odds with the New Zealand Bill of Rights. During the same year, Taylor received financial compensation and a letter of apology from the Ministry of Social Development for his incarceration and treatment at Epuni.

In 2017, he prosecuted Witness C for perjury in the Tamihere double-murder case.

He was denied parole 2018 for the 19th time after accumulating over 150 convictions.

He was finally granted parole in January and released today.