2 Oct 2015

'They're all ducking their heads'

10:19 am on 2 October 2015

The sister of the man murdered by Phillip Smith is calling for resignations in the wake of a damning report on his escape to Brazil.

Phillip Smith

Phillip Smith Photo: RNZ / Murielle Baker

The report released yesterday details multiple failings by Corrections, Customs, police and others.

Smith was jailed for life in 1996 for killing the father of a boy he sexually assaulted. He was on short-term release from a Waikato prison in November last year when he flew from Auckland to Chile, and on to Rio de Janeiro.

The sister of the man he murdered, Lynda, said the report's findings were a mockery and a cop-out.

"Sorry means nothing these days - doesn't cut it any more. If people had listened in the first place it would never have happened - and it's still happening," she told Morning Report.

"I don't think there's ever been a year when this whole saga of what happened to our family has been even allowed to lay to rest, to heal, without some sort of appeal, some botch up," she said. "I think its time that they listened."

Lynda said she had asked for 24-hour supervision of Smith during his short term release.

"I've done everything I can to try and stop all of this happening in the first place. And the minimum that you would have assumed, and I asked to happen, was 24-hour supervision if he was to be released on temporary release. The whole system has failed my family yet again."

She said the Corrections Minister had no idea what is going on in prisons, with Smith being able to run a business, get a passport and a plane ticket.

"You would think with all these agencies, someone would be accountable, and that leaves it with the government, doesn't it.

"They're all ducking their heads, he should be hanging his head in shame, John Key if he's the top one, but definitely the Corrections Minister."

Lynda said all the signs were there that Smith was manipulative and could not be trusted.

Caucus run 21/07/15

Amy Adams (file) Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Justice Minister Amy Adams said most of the blame for Phillip Smith being able to abscond fell to Corrections, but she did not expect its chief executive to stand down.

Corrections has admitted Smith, a dangerous and manipulative prisoner, should never have been let out.

Ms Adams said one Corrections staff member had lost their job and another two have been reprimanded.

In a statement yesterday, Corrections chief executive Ray Smith again acknowledged the department could have done much more to prevent Smith's unauthorised departure last year.

"For his victims this has been a terrible time and I have apologised to them," the statement said.

"The New Zealand public quite rightly expect Corrections to keep them safe and with Smith we fell short.

"Since this time we have made significant changes to the way we administer the temporary releases of prisoners."

The government is set to make changes to prevent another such international manhunt, including more information sharing between agencies. Corrections Minister Sam Lotu-Iiga said yesterday the inquiry had identified areas of weakness and the Government was moving to improve things.

A union for prison officers said the failure to assess Smith's risk was a result of wanting to improve rehabilitation statistics. Corrections Association industrial officer Beven Hanlon said a failure to take noe of major concerns expressed by Corrections officers showed the deparment was motivated by increasing the number of prisoners on rehabilition.

Smith is due to face trial early next year. His lawyer Tony Ellis said his client had exposed weaknesses that enabled him to leave the country.

"Realistically, he's done the nation a service by co-operating and helping so the government have a genuine opportunity to plug some of the loopholes that he's exposed."

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