Rachel Smalley: Move imprisoned mum with terminal cancer to home detention

A 35-year-old woman, a mother of three, has terminal cancer. She's been given five months to live. Two of her sons are aged 3 and 6.

It's a pretty grim situation. She has stomach cancer and is very ill.

Where this story takes a twist is that this woman, Vicki Letele, is in prison.

She was convicted of fraud last year and is eight months into a three-year sentence. She's eligible for parole in April, but she may not survive until then.

Her family wants her to spend the remaining five months of her life with her family - in particular, her three children.

Vicki's mother wants to care for her. She says the prison is ill-equipped to deal with her daughter's needs - helping to keep her clean, helping her to take her medication. Letele's doctors have written to the parole board saying she cannot be cared for properly in prison.

She is in Middlemore at the moment because of complications, but she'll then be sent back to prison.

Her family has asked the parole board to release her on compassionate grounds, but the board says she does not meet the exceptional circumstances test for early release.

But, they say that once her condition deteriorates to the extent that she requires hospice care, then they'll consider compassionate release.

What did she do?

She used fake documents to get finance for low income families, then sold those families properties belonging to people that she was related to - and there was a financial kick back for her. She made a profit. And a considerable profit.

The serious fraud office investigated - and she was found guilty of 10 charges of dishonestly using a document. The fraud amounted to $3.6 million.

We've been talking about this story in the newsroom this morning. Most of us are divided on it.

I understand the parole board has to be careful with this. They follow guidelines and if they step outside of those guidelines then they're at risk of setting a precedent. And where do you draw the line?

But at the same time, if I put my mother's hat on. We're talking about three children. Two of those children, as I mentioned, are aged just 3 and 6.

So do you move her to home detention, if that's legally possible, to allow her to be around her children for the last few months of her life? Or do you leave her locked up?

Some of you will say, 'you do the crime, you do the time'. But if you consider her children's perspective, does your point of view change?

On compassionate grounds, I would suggest moving her to home detention. Let her mother nurse her, and let her children be around her.

She's 35. Three children. And she has five months to live.

- Newstalk ZB

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