Legal action taken by self-styled jailhouse "lawyer" Arthur Taylor has cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in the past five years and that bill could rise even higher if he’s successful in a claim for damages from the Department of Corrections.
Taylor has more than 150 convictions, including for aggravated robbery, burglary, kidnap, fraud and drugs. In 2011 he was convicted of conspiring to supply methamphetamine; a crime co-ordinated and committed while he was behind bars at Auckland prison.
According to Crown Law, since 2011 Taylor has taken more than a dozen civil cases from behind bars. Last year he challenged the ban on sentenced prisoners’ voting which was passed into law by ACT and National in 2010.
Crown Law figures show it has cost taxpayers $467,998.83 in legal fees for the Government and its Departments to fight Taylor’s claims. In addition to that "counsel has performed 1,520 hours of work defending such proceedings," says Crown Law.
In an exclusive interview with TV3’s The Nation, the 59-year-old inmate says: "You’re footing the bill for inept incompetence on the part of government agencies".
He says while taking the cases is not all about ego, "… it’s a bit about ego. I mean we all like to win. We all like to be successful".
But Taylor says: "I’ll never take on a case unless I think it is going to benefit a larger number of people rather than just me".
Of the ban on prisoners' voting he says it is "chipping away at a fundamental right".
"They took prisoners’ right to vote away … who’s going to be next? Maybe homosexuals … maybe the next unpopular person that comes along … refugees.
"The moment they start creating a precedent, then you have to step in and do whatever the hell you can to stop it."
Corrections initially declined the interview with Taylor, but it was allowed to go ahead after a ruling by the Appeal Court. Vincent Arbuckle from the Department of Corrections says that in denying the request, the Department was taking into account the interests of two officers Taylor kidnapped at gunpoint.
"Taylor was described in the High Court in 2013 as a prisoner who 'has frequently displayed unco-operative behaviour inside the prison', and as someone whom authorities manage 'on the basis that he will test boundaries and take any opportunity to circumvent restrictions and security'," Mr Arbuckle says in a statement.
The Department says it granted the interview on the condition it was done via a video link to make sure it was safe.
One of Taylor’s next legal projects is taking a damages claim against Corrections over the nine months he spent in segregation at Auckland prison between 2011 and 2012, after a mobile phone was found in his cell.
A special investigation by the Ombudsman’s office found there were reasonable grounds to isolate Taylor, but process breaches by Corrections rendered the segregation that followed unreasonable and wrong. Taylor was also denied his minimum one hour of exercise each day.
Taylor says he’s currently working on a claim for damages of half a million dollars.
Details released by Crown Law show of the approximately fourteen civil cases that Taylor has taken in the past five financial years (where legal fees were charged) he’s won six, lost three, one has been struck out and four are not yet resolved.
The extra 1520 hours of legal work included work on two other cases where Taylor lost.
You can see Lisa Owen's exclusive interview with Arthur Taylor on The Nation, Saturday 9.30am, Sunday 10am and Monday 11pm on TV3.