Judge calls for review of prisoner law

By Sandra Conchie

Add a comment

A Tauranga judge is calling for a review of a law put in place to deal with deported prisoners after a man who served time for drug dealing challenged the need for a supervision order.

New Zealand-born Aaron James Falle, 41, served one-third of his eight-year jail sentence in Queensland, then spent four months in a detention centre before being deported to New Zealand.

Falle, who had lived in Australia since he was 5 years old, after his mother married an Australian man, arrived back in the country on December 1 and made his way to Tauranga.

He was subject to interim supervision conditions and the Department of Corrections made an application for a final supervision order to be imposed until November 2017, which would have seen Falle subject to four conditions including a travel ban, a ban on consuming alcohol and possessing and taking non-prescribed drugs and that he reside at an approved address.

Jennifer Harley, who appeared for the Department of Corrections in Tauranga District Court on Thursday, told Judge Thomas Ingram that despite a needs assessment having identified no rehabilitative needs, the department still sought the conditions.

Ms Harley said the supervision order was intended to help Mr Falle and reduce the risk of reoffending, and meant if he needed counselling in the future it would be provided at no cost to him.

Falle, who represented himself in the proceedings, said he did not object to the residence and drug condition but saw no need to impose an alcohol ban or restrict his travel. His intention was to return to Australia to his family as soon as he was granted permission to do so, and he was due to start a new job, he said.

Judge Ingram said Falle presented as an "exceptional" case as most returning prisoners had more lengthy criminal histories and rehabilitative needs, or had re-offended since their return.

"In Mr Falle's case there is no hint or whisper to suggest in his background there was any other offending and up until his drug offending he clearly lead an otherwise blameless life."

Judge Ingram revealed Falle's fall from grace was sparked after he suffered a serious injury after an altercation in the street and lost the sight in one eye, which inhibited his ability to work.

His drug trafficking was clearly not to feed any drug habit, the judge said.

Judge Ingram said imposing conditions other than the standard residence and drug ban conditions would be severely onerous.

Judge Ingram said that in his view, perhaps a review of the Returning Offenders (Management and Information) Act, under which a supervision regime could be imposed to assist in monitoring deported prisoners who had served more than a year in prison, was warranted.

"This case has taken some five months to get to this point but it seems to me that the best place to deal with these Parole Board-type cases is the Parole Board, or by judges experienced in Parole Board matters, rather than by judges sitting in the civil jurisdiction," he said.

Judge Ingram said having the case dealt with in the civil jurisdiction meant Mr Falle had no access to legal aid and, without the ability to work, no money to pay for legal representation.

A rehabilitative needs assessment should have been undertaken when the interim supervision order was imposed rather than months down the track, he said.

Judge Ingram said he was not prepared to impose conditions on Mr Falle which would override his fundamental freedoms under the Bill of Rights.

"I see no useful purpose in restricting Mr Falle's access to alcohol nor restricting his ability to travel outside New Zealand," Judge Ingram said.

Mr Falle would be subject to the standard special conditions until November 11, 2017, he said.

Judge Ingram told Mr Falle that he wished him the best in his new job and his future endeavours.

"Unfortunately, Mr Falle, you have been a bit of a guinea pig," he said.

Outside court, Mr Falle said he was "relieved" with the outcome after three or four court hearings in Auckland and several in Tauranga, and said he just wanted to get on with the rest of his life.

Minister of Justice Amy Adams was not able to provide a comment in time for this edition.

- Bay of Plenty Times

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

Have your say

1200 characters left

By and large our readers' comments are respectful and courteous. We're sure you'll fit in well.
View commenting guidelines.

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf04 at 03 Dec 2016 21:00:50 Processing Time: 847ms