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Family safety paramount, then urgent review

Corrections Minister Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga has some serious questions to answer over why a dangerous prison escapee, convicted of further crimes while in jail, managed to abscond while he was on approved temporary release, Labour’s Corrections spokesperson Jacinda Ardern says.

“Phillip John Smith was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1996 for the murder of a man whose son he had been sexually abusing. He was denied parole for a fourth time last year because he was still considered to be ‘high risk’ and a ‘serious danger’ to the community.

“He should have been monitored by both probation and corrections staff, yet his disappearance was not discovered for several days.

“It is incomprehensible that his ‘no show’ was not reported the moment he failed to arrive at his release address and that this was not picked up earlier by Corrections.

“While the focus of police and other agencies needs to be on keeping the family of his victims safe - and on re-capturing Smith – the Minister must order an immediate review into the circumstances that led to his escape. 

“Checks that should have been made clearly weren’t. That is totally unacceptable and will be of deep concern to most New Zealanders,” Jacinda Ardern said.