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Nicholas Jones is a New Zealand Herald political reporter.

Watch NZH Focus - Blessie's death: Antonio Gotingco 'devastated' by findings

Blessie Gotingco’s brutal murder at the hands of an offender who was living in her neighbourhood and subject to 24-hour GPS tracking sparked an independent inquiry. Its report, released today, has cleared Corrections and Police of any major failings in relation to the monitoring of Tony Robertson.

A government report that found no fault in the handling of his wife's rapist and murderer is "devastating", says Antonio Gotingco.

"My family are both disappointed and devastated by the inquiry's findings."

Mr Gotingco was supported by family spokesperson Ruth Money, family and friends.

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Mrs Money answered questions, calling the findings "insulting" and saying the report was "political spin".

He should not have had a car and should have been supported by a person when leaving his home she said.

The family were now preparing for a difficult week ahead, said Mrs Money.

"We just need to regroup. We have an emotional week coming up with the anniversary of Blessie's passing.

"We just need to hunker down and support the family through this."

Mr Gotingco shook the hands of journalists and thanked them as he left the room.

His wife, Blessie, was raped and murdered by Tony Robertson in May 2014, five months after he was released from jail for abducting and indecently assaulting a child.

Speaking to media at the North Shore Masonic Lodge in Albany, Mr Gotingco addressed the government report, released today, that found no major failings by Police and Corrections in the handling of Robertson.

Blessie Gotingco was killed and raped as she walked home in 2014. Photo / Supplied
Blessie Gotingco was killed and raped as she walked home in 2014. Photo / Supplied

He said Corrections "do not have the capabilities to manage high risk sex offenders".

"In fact, we think think the offenders manage them."

Robertson was last August sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum-non-parole period of 24 years for murder and preventive detention for rape.

Robertson was living on Auckland's North Shore on an extended supervision order, which included 24-hour GPS tracking.

Today's report found no major failings, but has made 27 recommendations as to how management of high-risk offenders like Tony Robertson can be improved.

Ms Collins said its main conclusion was that Robertson alone was responsible for his crimes.

"The inquiry found that no aspects of Robertson's management by Corrections or Police provided an opportunity for Robertson to murder Mrs Gotingco. The inquiry concluded that Robertson and only Robertson can be held responsible for what happened to Mrs Gotingco," Ms Collins said.

Asked about the case, Prime Minister John Key said the Government had accepted the report's recommendations.

"It is a terribly tragic set of circumstances for the Gotingco family and obviously my sympathies go to them.

"The report speaks for itself in terms of where it sees responsibility lying, but in terms of the recommendations we are going to implement the lot of them."

Tony Robertson was last August sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of 24 years for murder and preventive detention for rape.

He raped and murdered Blessie Gotingco in May 2014, five months after being released from jail for abducting and indecently assaulting a child.

Robertson was living on Auckland's North Shore on an extended supervision order, which included 24-hour GPS tracking.

The inquiry was led by highly respected public servant Mel Smith, who is a former Ombudsman and Acting Secretary for Justice.

Tony Robertson in court. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Tony Robertson in court. Photo / Jason Oxenham

In summary, Mr Smith wrote that there would inevitably be breaches of the electronic monitoring system, with resulting negative media attention.

He agreed with Corrections that such monitoring must be viewed as only one tool among many designed to manage offenders and keep the public safe.

"Ongoing developments and enhancements will reduce, but probably never eliminate, some offenders breaching the system."

Today's report was received by the Government on January 29, but has been released after Robertson's unsuccessful appeal against his conviction and sentence.

Robertson's rehabilitation and release

Mr Smith concluded that Corrections made reasonable efforts to provide Robertson with suitable rehabilitation programmes, but "did not make efforts sufficiently early in Robertson's sentence to bring about change".

He recommended that Corrections should put more emphasis on motivating offenders to attend rehabilitation programmes, and give priority to young offenders identified as high-risk and serving long sentences.

Corrections should also consider developing individual programmes for prisoners who deny their offending, or pose behavioural problems in groups, the report states.

Release planning for Robertson should have begun earlier, and Corrections was wrong to lower his banner risk to medium, the report noted.

However, this made no practical difference to his management as a high-risk offender.

"Robertson's management after his release exceeded the mandatory standards. His management was careful, responsive and based on assessed risk," Mr Smith concluded.

"The level of management oversight, the frequency of reporting, the attention to electronic monitoring information, the active liaison with Police, and the responses to non-compliance were in accordance with policy and standards, purposeful and timely."

Electronic monitoring

The report found Corrections did not place undue reliance on electronic monitoring, and its sharing of related information with Police was efficient: "GPS data was a key factor in leading searchers quickly to Mrs Gotingco's body, in justifying Robertson's arrest, and in securing his conviction".

Corrections was right to discourage probation officers from real-time monitoring of offenders' movements, as this would "distract them from their core tasks and would not greatly improve monitoring effectiveness".

"The electronic monitoring system was, and is, effective for monitoring compliance by offenders with their whereabouts conditions," the report stated.

Recommendations were that Police, Ministry of Justice and, if required, the Privacy Commissioner assess whether changes are needed in the way Corrections shares electronic monitoring data.

Changes could be needed to the way Police enter properties in response to tamper alerts, the report found, and Police and the Ministry of Justice should investigate.

Parliament is considering a bill that would expand the use of electronic monitoring further.

Electronic monitoring was introduced in 2006 for people on home or community detention, and was extended to some high-risk criminals in 2012.

The new bill, which is at the select committee stage, would expand the policy to two new sentences. These were prison sentences of up to two years which had release conditions, and intensive supervision sentences.

Informing communities about high-risk offenders

When a high-risk offender such as Robertson moves into a neighbourhood, the report found Police and Corrections' guidelines for notifying neighbours were inconsistent "and in places unclear".

Corrections' process for deciding whether to tell Birkdale residents Robertson was in their midst was inadequate, unstructured, slow and failed to translate into a recorded decision.

"The district manager's records of her decision-making process were poor," the report found.

Concerns from Gotingco family

Mr Smith spoke to Blessie's husband, Antonio Gotingco, as part of the inquiry. The family raised a number of issues, including the strong belief that the assistance given to them was not sufficiently supportive or appropriate, particularly during the court process.

Victim Support's chief executive has since met with Mr Gotingco to discuss those concerns.

The report noted a Ministry of Justice pilot using a specialist homicide case worker service may be continued and expanded.

Ms Collins said the Government had accepted all of the inquiry's 27 "fair and constructive" recommendations.

"Most of the recommendations are directed to operational changes within Corrections and are in progress with some completed."

- NZ Herald

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