Gay teen's murderer, Stephen James Smith, to be freed in April, Parole Board decides

Jeff Whittington, 14, was beaten and left for dead in central Wellington on May 8, 1999. Photo/File
Jeff Whittington, 14, was beaten and left for dead in central Wellington on May 8, 1999. Photo/File

A man who murdered a Wellington teen in an alleged gay hate crime will be given a third shot at freedom, the Parole Board has decided.

Jeff Whittington, 14, was beaten and left for dead in central Wellington in the early hours of May 8, 1999.

He was found with boot marks on his skin, brain damage and a perforated bowel. He died in hospital the next day.

Stephen James Smith and Jason Meads were convicted of Whittington's murder.

During their trial a witness told the court the men boasted about beating a "faggot" and had laughed about what they'd done.

"They said they had never seen anyone bleed from the places he bled from," the witness said.

The Parole Board granted Smith parole at a hearing last week, saying he was no longer an "undue" risk to the community, despite him being recalled to prison three times before for parole breaches.

He was also sent back to prison after being convicted of drink driving while on parole.

Meads was released in 2013.

"We think Mr Smith has reached the stage where he meets the criteria, yet again, for release on parole. He would not be an undue risk to the safety of the community provided he faithfully complies with the release conditions," said panel convener Justice J.W. Gendall, QC.

The decision said although Smith had performed badly on parole, he was "a compliant and reliable inmate in all aspects". He will be freed next month.

Just a year ago the board declined Smith's application for release, saying he needed to undergo "further rehabilitative and reintegrative measures" first.

He had undergone extensive counselling since then and had been working since December as part of the release-to-work programme, the decision stated.

His release is subject to conditions, including not contacting Meads without permission from his probation officer, attending a family hui and undergoing psychological and drug and alcohol assessments and treatments.

The conditions also included a night-time curfew, but this will be reviewed at Smith's monitoring hearing in October.

He must abide by these conditions for five years from his release date.

The murder
Smith and Meads had been drinking on the morning of May 8, 1999 and were driving through central Wellington when they found their victim, the court heard.

The pair saw Whittington sitting on a kerb and told him to get in the car because they were concerned he would get beaten up.

Whittington got in the car and went with Smith and Meads to smoke a joint at Inverlochy Pl.

The men said they beat Whittington because he spilled beer in Meads' car.

They denied stomping on his head and never meant to kill him, the court heard.

- NZ Herald

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