Government Inquiry into Smith / Traynor escape established

  • Paula Bennett
State Services

State Services Minister Paula Bennett has today released the draft Terms of Reference for the Government Inquiry into matters concerning the escape of Phillip John Smith / Traynor.

The draft Terms of Reference focus on:

  • Mr Smith / Traynor’s temporary release from prison and departure from New Zealand
  • the use of different identities by people within the criminal justice system
  • the adequacy of information sharing between Government departments

“I have asked the Hon John Priestley CNZM QC to Chair the Inquiry. The Hon John Priestley is an experienced and highly respected member of the New Zealand legal community, and brings significant knowledge of the justice and public service systems,” says Mrs Bennett. 

“The Hon John Priestley will be assisted by Simon Murdoch CNZM. Mr Murdoch has comprehensive public sector experience, having served as New Zealand’s Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Trade and as Chief Executive of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.” 

The Terms of Reference will be finalised following consultation with the Chair and membership of the Inquiry.  

“It is imperative the Inquiry provide answers to the many questions New Zealanders have around how Mr Smith / Traynor was able to abscond overseas while on temporary release from prison,” says Mrs Bennett. 

The Inquiry will be informed, but not bound, by other reviews into the matter, including an internal review by the Department of Corrections and a multi-agency review led by the Ministry of Justice.

The Inquiry will be established under the Inquiries Act 2013.

“While we have an indicative time frame of a six month inquiry period, this may be extended in order to ensure the Inquiry is as thorough as possible,” says Mrs Bennett. 

“My intention is that the findings of the Inquiry be published with or without redactions in line with the Inquiries Act 2013, most likely in the second half of next year.”

The draft Terms of Reference are available here:

Hon John Priestley CNZM, QC

The Honourable John Priestley was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1994 and served on the High Court bench from 2000 to 2013.

He was the original chairman of the Deportation Review Authority, chairman of the New Zealand Law Society’s family law section, chairman of the Film Censorship Board of Review and deputy chairman of the Refugee Status Appeal Authority.  

He was made a Companion of the NZ Order of Merit in the 2014 New Year Honours for services to the judiciary.

Simon Murdoch CNZM

Simon Murdoch was New Zealand’s Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Trade from 2002 to 2009 and was previously New Zealand High Commissioner to Canberra, and Chief Executive of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

In 2010 he conducted a review of New Zealand intelligence agencies, and has served as acting Chief Executive and Director of the Government Communications Security Bureau.

He was made a Companion of the NZ Order of Merit in 2009 for public services.