20 Jan 2015

Guilty plea over Phillip Smith passport

6:44 pm on 20 January 2015

A court has heard how the Whanganui man who helped convicted murderer and paedophile Phillip Smith get a passport had a meltdown that resulted in him threatening to kill a police officer.

Christopher Ryan Clifton

Christopher Ryan Clifton, 25, appeared at Whanganui District Court today. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Christopher Ryan Clifton, 25, appeared at Whanganui District Court today charged with making a false representation under the Passports Act.

Phillip Smith

Phillip Smith Photo: RNZ / Murielle Baker

But he has denied knowing anything about Smith's plot to flee while on temporary release from prison late last year.

Smith flew out of Auckland on 6 November 2014 - first to Chile, then on to Brazil, where he was detained. He was on temporary release from Spring Hill Prison in Waikato at the time.

The court heard that Clifton and Smith became friends when they were inmates at Hawke's Bay Prison in 2008.

In June 2014, Clifton received a call from Smith asking him to be a referee for a passport application he was making under his birth surname.

When Smith flew to South America, Clifton contacted police - admitting his role but denying any knowledge of the escape plot - and he was charged.

Call-outs in December

Early on 20 December, officers were called on again, police prosecutor Sergeant Stephen Butler told the court.

"The defendant called police, stating that he was wandering the street in a distressed state," he said.

"He was located by police and stated that he was unable to cope with the pressure from the media as a result of the high profile prosecution ... He said he wanted to speak to the police and said he just wanted someone to listen."

Police took Clifton home - but his partner called them again at 3.20am, saying Clifton had left home dressed in camouflage, carrying a knife and saying he did not expect to live, Mr Butler said.

He said police found and arrested Clifton but, on the trip to the station, he threatened the arresting officer, Brett Humphrey.

"He threatened the officer when he said that, when he gets out of jail, did he see my nine millimetre bullet, I have plenty of those, and when I get out, I'm going to put a bullet in you," Mr Butler said.

"You won't even know what hit you; you don't even know what you're dealing with."

Sentencing in February

Clifton has admitted threatening to kill and unlawfully possessing a knife.

However, the passport offence is more serious, carrying a maximum jail term of 10 years.

His defence lawyer Stephanie Burlace has asked for a community-based sentence to be considered.

"A community-based sentence has been imposed in other cases, so I'd like to leave that door open for discussion at the time of sentencing," she said.

Judge David Cameron, however, was not ruling out prison.

"I'm ordering a pre-sentence report in respect of you with home detention and and community detention appendices but I make it clear that all options are open to the court including imprisonment."

Clifton was remanded in custody to reappear for sentencing on 18 February.