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SMITH, Phillip John 31/03/2014

Parole hearing

Under section 21(1) of the Parole Act 2002


Phillip John SMITH


Hearing: 31 March 2014
 at (withheld)

Members of the Board: 
Hon. J W Gendall QC – Panel Convenor
 Hon. M A Frater
 Mr B McMurray
 Ms S Pakura

Support Persons: (withheld)

In Attendance: 
Ms W Shrimpton (Radio Live)
 Ms J Turner (NZPB Communications Manager)
(withheld)


DECISION OF THE BOARD

  1. Phillip John Smith is serving a sentence of life imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of 13 years imposed on 15 April 1966 for a crime of murder.  Originally his parole eligibility date was 14 April 2009.  Subsequently that date was extended until 9 April 2013 because of multiple frauds he committed in prison between the years 2006 and 2010.  
  2. He has been subject to a postponement order and was seen for the first time after that on 8 April 2013, when parole was declined.  He is now seen for the second time since the termination of the postponement order.
  3. Mr Smith seeks parole today.  He has the strong support of his circle of support and he has had a number of temporary releases (totalling 6 of up to 12 hours). 
  4. The psychologist assessed his risk of general reoffending as high, but says that if this occurs it is most likely to take the form of fraudulent offending.  He says that “the extreme violence that resulted in Mr Smith’s index murder offence occurred in a situation where he felt trapped and extremely vulnerable”, “but that as there have been no further incidents of that nature, it would appear as though Mr Smith has an increased ability to control his emotions and actions.”
  5. We also note that in his 2013 report, the same psychologist said that over the years the extreme narcissistic traits exhibited by Mr Smith at the time of the index offending had changed from being “totally maladaptive” to “more adaptive”.   In the current report the psychologist says that in recent years there has been no evidence of the litigious and arrogant behaviour and attitudes, or the rule breaking incidents, evident earlier in his sentence.
  6. However, notwithstanding the favourable reports of his recent behaviour, we are not satisfied that Mr Smith has put his anti- social traits behind him completely.
  7. Like the previous Board, we do not accept the claim, repeated in this year’s psychological report, that Mr Smith’s index offences arose out of spur of the moment panic, and note that, when questioned by the Board, he did not maintain that self- report.  
  8. Nor do we accept the reasons he gave to us as to why he has not seen fit to meet his outstanding reparation obligation in excess of $37,000 in full, rather than at $50 per week, as directed by the sentencing judge, when clearly he now has significant funds available to do so, if he chooses.  His counsel at sentencing is recorded as saying he was “willing to pay full amount of reparation” and he was given a 7 month reduction of sentence to reflect a number of matters, including reparation.
  9. Mr Smith has been making good progress in terms of his temporary releases and engaging with his circle of support.  However, the usual accepted and necessary pathway for an offender who has committed horrendous violent and serious crimes such as his, is to establish and prove himself through the necessary reintegrative steps.  These, we consider, should include him working towards Self Care and, if available, Release to Work.  As yet he is not pre-approved for that privilege. It is something to which he can work toward.  We agree with the psychological report writer that he would also benefit from overnight temporary releases.
  10. In our view it would be premature to grant parole now, on the basis that he has had several temporary releases and a strong support group. His risk is, and has been, such that he needs to prove himself in wider range of situations, and over time, in the community.  If it is necessary for him to be transferred to another prison in order to further that progress, then we would support it.
  11. Mr Smith does not meet the statutory criteria for release on parole as he remains an undue risk to the safety of the community.  Parole is declined.   He will be seen again in accordance with the statutory cycle.
  12. An updated assessment report, from another senior psychologist, is required for that hearing.

Hon. J W Gendall QC
Panel Convenor