11 Aug 2016

Corrections 'ignored' psychologist's advice on career criminal

10:03 am on 11 August 2016

Corrections ignored a psychologist's opinion that high-profile prisoner Arthur Taylor could be moved to a lower security prison, and omitted that fact from an affadavit, a judge has found.

Arthur Taylor in the High Court at Auckland.

Arthur Taylor says Corrections was wrong not to let him complete a rehabilitation programme. Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

The High Court has released the latest judgment in Taylor's ongoing legal dispute with Corrections over his security classification and access to rehabilitation programmes.

Taylor is currently in custody at Auckland Prison, in the maximum security wing's A Block, despite his classification being downgraded to low-medium in early 2015.

His 152 convictions include fraud, burglary, aggravated robbery and firearms offences.

He has been declined parole several times because he has not completed a rehabilitation programme that the Parole Board considered essential for his safe release.

However, that was because he was unable to complete the programme until his security classification was downgraded and he was moved to a lower security prison.

In her judgment, Justice Rebecca Ellis said Corrections accepted that Taylor was eligible for the programme but wanted him to spend time in the other wing of Auckland Prison first.

That was at odds with a recommendation from a Corrections psychologist who had seen Taylor for nearly 30 one-on-one counselling sessions, Justice Ellis said.

In an email to Auckland Prison director Tom Sherlock in January 2015, the psychologist said there was no need for Taylor to spend more time at Auckland Prison before he was transferred to a lower-security prison.

"Mr Taylor would be better off going straight from A Block to [Waikeria Prison] once he was waitlisted for the programme."

That advice was "effectively ignored", Justice Ellis said.

Mr Sherlock claimed the first time the psychologist suggested this was in July 2015.

"That evidence is, however, contradicted by the email he received from [the psychologist] some six months earlier," Justice Ellis said.

Corrections also incorrectly told Taylor that the wing it wanted to transfer him to in Auckland Prison was low-medium security, she found.

"[Corrections] acknowledged that there had been an error ... and that Units 2 and 3 at West Division (where it had been proposed to place Mr Taylor) were, indeed, high, rather than low-medium security."

That "arguably undermine" Corrections' reason for transferring Taylor in the first place, which was to get him used to a low-medium security environment, she said.

Justice Ellis did not make any formal order but said Taylor's participation in the rehabilitation programme should be considered again.