• Nick Smith

Corrections Minister, Nick Smith, is angry that four serious criminals escaped last evening from Auckland West medium security prison. He is demanding answers from the Department of Corrections about how this failure of prison security occurred.

"It is just not acceptable for four serious criminals to be out on the loose. The Department is going to have to answer tough questions as to whether the prisoners were appropriately classified, whether the supervision at the time of escape was adequate and whether it was a failure of physical security systems or human error that allowed the escape to occur," said Dr Smith.

Dr Smith met urgently this morning with the Chief Executive of the Department of Corrections, making plain his concerns over the escape. The Minister has asked for an urgent interim report and assurances that the Auckland West medium security prison is secure. A detailed and thorough independent report from the prison inspectorate will be commenced immediately.

"I have had concerns about the standard of our prison security systems since taking up this portfolio six months ago. The need for investment into improved prison security has been recognised by this Government with the commitment, in this year's budget, to spend $22.5 million on new systems. The bulk of this funding is going into medium security prisons including $2.2 million for Auckland prison. The Government has also committed several million dollars to staff training to complement the increased investment in physical security.

"These convicted criminals pose a significant risk to public safety, and I would urge the community to be vigilant and cooperative in assisting the police to recapture these four escapees," said Dr Smith.