Corrections accused of 'unnecessary delay' over murderer Andre Gilling's release from prison

Queens House of Detention, New York
Photo credit: Getty Images

By Jimmy Ellingham of RNZ

WARNING: This story contains content some readers may find upsetting.

Prison officials are defending themselves against criticism from the Parole Board for delaying a convicted murderer's release into the outside world.

The Parole Board criticised Corrections approving Andre Gilling for temporary releases at one prison, but making him go through the process again when he moved jails, something Corrections said was necessary.

Gilling was released from prison this month after serving more than 16 years for the gruesome killing of Stanley Waipouri in Palmerston North in a probable homophobic attack in December 2006.

Gilling, just 17 at the time, was found guilty at a retrial in 2008. The other killer, Ashley Arnopp, was released from jail last year, but is back in prison after breaching his parole.

Gilling saw the Parole Board in March, and it was dismissive of Corrections' handling of Gilling. It said moves between prisons were holding him back, as with every shift he would have to again be considered for guided releases or Corrections' release-to-work programme.

"Mr Gilling has been approved for release to work by Corrections. However, he is now not eligible for even guided releases at Christchurch prison because that possibility has to be considered by an internal committee of the prison."

It seemed unnecessary to repeat an assessment already made elsewhere, the board said, adding it shared Gilling's frustration "at what seems a repetitive, unnecessary process".

The board was further frustrated when Corrections would not agree with the board's request that it provide Gilling with guided releases if the board gave him a release date, as other prisons did.

At that point, he had not had any such releases from Christchurch Men's.

Corrections deputy commissioner men's prisons Neil Beales said Gilling was moved to Christchurch Men's Prison two weeks before his parole hearing.

"In terms of prisoners moving between sites, it's not as simple as saying because a prisoner is approved for temporary release at one site, they should be automatically approved at the next," Beales said.

"There may be a change of circumstances for the prisoner, or in the community, that means that release may not be appropriate if the prisoner is transferred to another site.

"Christchurch Men's Prison is no different to any other prison across the network, which also approve guided release through advisory panels."

Because he had only been there for a short time, Gilling was not yet considered for guided releases.

"At Mr Gilling's parole hearing, the board asked whether Mr Gilling could have guided release prior to the release date they were setting," Beales said.

"The case manager present did not have the necessary delegation to approve this.

"Temporary release can only be approved by someone with the delegated authority to do so - a level-four-offender-management delegation is required, which is a deputy general manager of the prison or higher.

"Case managers and principal case managers do not hold this delegation."

The board was critical that promised chances for guided releases, or release-to-work programmes, had not happened before its March hearing.

It said every time Gilling moved prisons, he seemed to have gone backwards.

"We consider that Corrections are inserting an unnecessary delay in the process to try and provide Mr Gilling with a safe release.

"Mr Gilling has understandably expressed the view that Corrections are obstructing rather than facilitating a safe release for him."

Beales said public safety was Corrections' top priority. Although temporary releases ahead of a prisoner's final release were beneficial, it was critical they were carefully considered and victims were consulted, risks mitigated and public safety upheld. Victims were consulted at least 10 days in advance.

Usually, an application for temporary release would go to a prison's Outside the Wire Panel.

"On this occasion, it would have been possible for the case manager to request a break in the hearing to take the request to a colleague with the necessary delegation for urgent consideration, given the Parole Board granting release is a strong indication that guided release can safely occur," Beales said.

"However, the case manager had not encountered this uncommon situation previously and was not aware this was an option.

"This did not impact Mr Gilling being approved for guided releases - following the hearing, an application was promptly made to the Outside the Wire Panel, which was approved on 28 March.

"Mr Gilling was approved for three guided releases, which occurred on 19, 22 and 26 April, prior to his release date of 6 May."

Beales said it acknowledged the feedback from the Parole Board, and had used it to educate staff about how to manage such situations.

In the 2006 attack, Waipouri suffered head, neck and chest injuries, having been beaten for more than an hour at his flat.

The tip of his penis was missing, an ear was mutilated and there were bite marks on his nipples, although in court the question of cannibalism was never resolved.

Gilling will see the Parole Board again later this year for a progress hearing.