26 Jan 2014

Case may clarify prison media rules

8:48 am on 26 January 2014

The Law Society says a court case taken by convicted double murderer Scott Watson against the Department of Corrections will clarify rules on reporters' access to prisoners.

Watson is serving a life sentence at Rolleston Prison near Christchurch for the murder of Ben Smart and Olivia Hope in 1998.

His legal team has asked the High Court to force the department to make a decision on whether to allow a meeting between Watson and Gerald Hope, the father of Olivia. Watson wants a journalist to be present at the meeting.

Law Society spokesperson Jonathan Krebs said the case will clarify the rules and issues to be considered for such requests.

"The Corrections Department, quite properly, looks very carefully at media requests to visit prisoners, because once a prisoner is speaking to the media from inside the prison, then Corrections loses control of what it is they are saying."

Mr Krebs says the Department of Corrections is right to look very carefully at any media requests to visit to prisoners, because if granted the department loses control over what the prisoner is saying.

A spokesperson for Rethinking Crime and Punishment, Kim Workman, said Corrections' policy on allowing reporters to speak to prisoners is far too restrictive.

He said allowing prisoners to speak to reporters more often would provide a form of protection to people who are in the custody of the state.

Corrections said on Friday it had been awaiting a decision in a related case about media access, which was now being appealed, so it could not comment further.