10 Apr 2017

Corrections to challenge ruling on murderer's toupee

8:10 pm on 10 April 2017

The Department of Corrections will appeal against a High Court decision that ruled it breached Phillip John Smith's rights by not letting him wear a toupee behind bars.

Phillip John Smith

Phillip John Smith Photo: RNZ / POLICE

Smith is serving a life sentence for murdering the father of a boy he was sexually abusing.

He challenged an Auckland Prison decision banning him from having a custom-made hairpiece when he was reclassified as a maximum security prisoner, after fleeing to South America.

Smith argued at the time that by wearing the partial wig he was exercising his right to freedom of expression, and Corrections had failed to treat him with humanity and dignity.

The judge in the High Court ruled the inmate's fundamental right to freedom of expression had been ignored, and the decision had not been properly explained.

Auckland Prison director Andy Langley said Corrections would appeal the decision because of its precedent-setting nature and the effect it could have on the department's decision-making abilities.

Smith would be allowed to keep his hairpiece, under certain conditions, while he was currently held at the prison at Paremoremo, he said.

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