23 Jan 2009

Labour Govt blamed for dangerous inmate's escape

3:01 pm on 23 January 2009

Corrections Minister Judith Collins blames the latest prison escape on a failure by the previous Labour Government to review prisoner security classifications.

Arai Whakaari Hema, 30, convicted of attempted rape and attempted murder, escaped while working outside the main fence at Auckland Prison at Paremoremo on Wednesday.

Police say Hema is considered dangerous, but was he classified as a low security risk in prison, despite his history of violent offending.

Ms Collins says Labour admitted in 2007 that security classification for prisoners should be reviewed, after a minimum security prisoner who was also a convicted murderer, escaped.

However, she says Labour did nothing about it.

Ms Collins says she has asked for a report from Corrections on how these classifications are done.

In 1999, Hema was jailed for 11 years for trying to rape a 16-year-old girl in Napier and the attempted murder of an elderly neighbour who came to her aid. Bruce Butler, 76, needed more than 400 stitches in his head for knife wounds.

In 2004, another six years was added to his sentence for an attack on three Hawke's Bay prison officers.

The Crown requested preventive detention at the time, saying Hema was a smouldering keg of powder waiting to blow, but the request was denied.

Hema is the sixth prisoner to escape in the past week.