Corrections procedures changed after Rimutaka suicide

9:02 pm on 26 April 2018

The Wellington Coroner's Court has been told the prison service has changed the way it assesses at-risk prisoners.

Rimutaka Prison

Rimutaka Prison Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

An inquest began today before coroner Peter Ryan into the death of Jonathan Antipas, who was 24, and who killed himself in Rimutaka Prison in October 2014.

Mr Ryan has ruled the death was suicide but has prohibited publication of further details.

A diary Mr Antipas kept while in prison revealed he was thinking of harming himself, but an assessment when he was remanded in custody raised no concerns.

The then director of Rimutaka Prison, Chris Burns, told the coroner the Corrections Department had changed its assessment forms since then and he believed they would have made a difference in the Antipas case.

"I would like to think so simply because the new questions are really specific about whether or not you are going to have suicidal thoughts."

But Mr Burns agreed with the coroner that the questions would still be dependant on a truthful response from the prisoner.

Jonathan Antipas's mother, Denise Pirihi, questioned Mr Burns about the investigation into her son's death, saying some problems such as fights he had with other remand inmates seemed to have been overlooked.

"Johnny mentions four times in his diary that no one noticed the fights, did anyone see any injuries? If not why not? And what about a report from the officer who told Johnny to stop writing his feelings down and sending them to people outside."

Mr Burns admitted he was at a loss to explain why staff missed some key matters relating to Jonathan Antipas.

The inquest will continue tomorrow.

Where to get help:

Need to Talk? Free call or text 1737 any time to speak to a trained counsellor, for any reason.

Lifeline: 0800 543 354

Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO (24/7). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.

Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7)

Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)

Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7) or free text 234 (8am-12am), or email

What's Up: online chat (7pm-10pm) or 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 children's helpline (1pm-10pm weekdays, 3pm-10pm weekends)

Kidsline (ages 5-18): 0800 543 754 (24/7)

Rural Support Trust Helpline: 0800 787 254

Healthline: 0800 611 116

Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.