Collins says she can't release ill prisoner

9:57 am on 7 November 2016

Corrections Minister Judith Collins says she has no power to release terminally ill prisoner Vicki Letele.

Terminally ill prisoner Vicki Letele

Terminally ill prisoner Vicki Letele Photo: Supplied

Vicki Letele is serving a sentence of three years and two months for fraud but is dying of stomach cancer.

Her appeal for compassionate release to see out her final months of life at home has been denied, with authorities saying she can get high quality treatment in prison.

The parole board had full authority to make decisions on Letele's situation, Ms Collins said.

"What I can do is ask them what's happening, and to obviously share the concern of many people that, if it is at all possible within the law, we would obviously like to see a compassionate response."

Meanwhile, Letele's family is due to meet with Corrections staff today to discuss visiting procedures.

On Saturday more than 200 people gathered outside Wiri prison in support of Letele's bid to be released.

All visits were cancelled that day because of the protest, and according to Letele's family phones were also cut off for most of the day.

At the protest on Saturday her father, David Letele, who also runs a charitable trust that assists people leaving prison, said his daughter's fight was bigger than just her.

"We're really prayful and hopeful that the powers that be take notice of what has happened here, and I also pray to those that are in those positions, that are able to prompt change, will take notice."

An official review looking at whether the care in prison can meet the hospital's requirements is expected to be ready on Thursday.

Ms Letele's brother Dave hoped the review would come out sooner, as he said time wasn't on their side.

Dave Letele said a meeting with Corrections staff today was likely to be about visiting procedures and would hopefully clear up queries the family have.

"[The meeting today] will be more in regard to visiting ... just what's going to happen from here."

He and whānau visited Ms Letele yesterday after a day of not being able to see her.

"She's a bit run down [and doing] as well as she can be going through what she's going through. She's just really tired but she was happy to see all the family and her kids."

Corrections had been playing hardball but the family would not back down, he said.

Meanwhile an online petition created by her partner, Leah Witehira, has received more than 11,835 signatures. Ms Witehira hopes to get 15,000 signatures before presenting it to the New Zealand Parole board.

In a statement Corrections said Ms Letele's health was being monitored daily, and if her condition deteriorated to a point where the prison was unable to give her the level of care required, another application for compassionate release could be made to the Parole Board.

It said Ms Letele's family had been given permission to spend additional time with her.

Corrections said it worked within a legislative framework, not as a response to public opinion or media pressure.

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