Say something Sam – the shameful escape of an unmonitored killer happened on your watch

Alf isn’t too impressed by the time it is taking his colleague, Sam Lotu-Iaga, to do his job as Minister of Corrections and say something about the outrageous escape of a convicted killer who the cops and Parole Board have described as dangerous.

Mind you, Sam is a fellow Nat and Alf would never ever say anything harsh about a fellow Nat. Not publicly.

But obviously some bloody silly decisions have been made within Sam’s departmental bailiwick to facilitate the escape of one Phillip Smith, a convicted murderer and child abuser.

Smith was let out for a jolly old bit of free time in the community last Thursday morning.

Nobody saw fit to stick an electronic monitor on him.

So he did a flit.

Not a midnight flit. No, it was a morning one, in broad daylight.

The department didn’t find out for – how long was it?

Oh yes. Two days.

The family of this dangerous bugger’s victim – he had knifed the father of the boy he abused – were not told until Sunday.

Now they are frightened (understandably) and some have been given police protection.

This is a case for head rolling.

But did the Minister rush to make a statement to assure the public or explain Smith’s temporary release (for the ninth time)?

Not that Alf can find.

The only information to emerge from his ministerial office (at time of writing early this afternoon) was furnished by a female flak who said he would release a statement some time soon.

This suggested we might get a few words in writing. Full stop. End of accountability, at least for now.

Sorry to say, Alf reckons this is not good enough (and he further reckons he could do a much better job of the portfolio).

The story, of course, is outrageous, as this account from the NZ Herald too clearly shows:

Smith, 40, was temporarily released for three nights from Springhill Prison near Huntly on Thursday. Police have been hunting for him ever since he failed to arrive at the address of a family member in Waterview, Auckland, where he was supposed to stay.

A relative of one of his victims said they were frightened and “devastated” to hear that Smith was on the run.

She told Radio New Zealand
some members of the family had gone into police protection.

“My family is frightened, they’re not in a good space at all. We just want him caught. This should never have happened, never. I’ve spoken to one of my family who has been put in protection. They’re extremely worried, this has upset their whole life yet again … it’s not right.”

Fair to say, the National Commissioner of Corrections, Jeremy Lightfoot, has done what the Minister should have done, and fronted up to the media.

He told Radio New Zealand Smith was to be supervised by a family member.

Smith had served the punitive part of his sentence.

The Department of Corrections made contact with the Smith family member who was entrusted with monitoring him on Saturday afternoon and – surprise! – found Smith wasn’t at the address.

Lightfoot banged on about the namby-pamby procedures that cry out for overhaul.

He said the three-day release was part of a plan to ready Smith for his next Parole Board hearing next year.

The Herald tells us Smith’s most recent appearance before the parole board was in March this year.

Mr Lightfoot said while Smith was declined parole, he was approved for overnight temporary release. Since March, he had completed five three-night temporary release stints.

In the 12 months before his March parole board hearing, he had successfully completed six one-day temporary release stints.

We further learn:

The board, led by convenor Warwick Gendall, QC, said Smith was found to have a risk of general reoffending after a psychologist’s report.

The board’s decision said a psychologist’s report was favourable of Smith’s behaviour in recent years, but the board wasn’t satisfied. “We are not satisfied that Mr Smith has put his anti-social traits behind him completely.”

Fair to say, the board also said Smith was making good progress in terms of his temporary releases and “engaging with his circle of support”.

It agreed with a psychologist’s suggestion that he would benefit from overnight temporary releases, but:

“In our view it would be premature to grant parole now,” the board said.

So where is he now?

Good question.

Phillip Smith may have left the country on a false passport, One News has reported.

One News said it understood he had fled to Chile.

What a shame.

Alf would feel much happier if Smith had gone somewhere else – preferably Syria or Iraq.

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