Weekend Herald investigation: Key paragraphs of a report were removed without the officer's knowledge

A probation officer is suing his bosses for removing safety concerns from a report given to the Parole Board under his name about an offender who is now on the run and described by police as dangerous.

Key paragraphs including that the prisoner was a high risk of violent reoffending were removed without the author's knowledge from the risk assessment section of a probation report considered by the Parole Board when it was deciding whether to release Rere Topou Pumipi.

Pumipi, 22, was in jail for attacking a man with a hammer in 2012 and causing life-threatening injuries. In 2007 Pumipi stuck a knife in a person's ear.

According to documents filed in the High Court in Wellington this month 15 paragraphs were cut behind probation officer Stanley Gilmour's back after his report had passed the department's quality assurance check.

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Pumipi has 16 convictions, including the knife and hammer incidents. Police this week said he is considered dangerous and shouldn't be approached. He is wanted for absconding from the address where the Parole Board ordered he live.

The victim of the hammer attack, Kevin Morrissy, told the Herald it was a concern if Pumipi's risk assessment was improperly toned down. Otherwise, Pumipi may have had longer in prison to address drug, alcohol and anger issues, he said. "I thought he would change. I hope no one is going to get hurt."

The attack in which Mr Morrissy's skull was fractured and compressed against his brain had changed his life forever. The incident put an end to sport for the talented rugby player and doctors have told him he may never fully regain his speech.

"I just about died," he told Judge Duncan Harvey at Pumipi's sentencing in 2013. "I hate to understand why someone who I've met only twice before will want to kill me with a hammer."

Judge Harvey said Pumipi was in fighting mood having already confronted two other people that night and had alcohol and anger problems. The judge said he would be surprised if Pumipi was released before those were addressed.

Pumipi was released from Ngawha Prison near Kaikohe after his second appearance before the Parole Board last July, having served just over a third of his sentence of three years and nine months.

It was at Pumipi's first appearance, in January 2013, that the board considered the document that Mr Gilmour claims was unlawfully and substantially altered.

"The claim, as filed, highlights actions which fundamentally undermine the integrity of the system," Mr Gilmour's barrister Warren Templeton told the Herald. The report was forwarded to the Parole Board on a "misleading and incorrect basis".

His client felt his complaints - made about a year ago - to the Probation Service and Department of Corrections "were not receiving appropriate attention", Mr Templeton said.

"A key part of Mr Gilmour's concern was his view that he could be held responsible concerning the risks the prisoner posed to the public when these were removed without his knowledge or consent," he said.

Mr Gilmour is seeking a declaratory judgement that the alterations and deletions were unlawful and breached the obligations of probation officers set out in the Corrections Act 2008 and Parole Act 2002, and that allowing the reduced report to go to the Parole Board under Mr Gilmour's name was illegal.

Probation officers are required by law to provide "all" information that a court or Parole Board may need and must treat the maintenance of public safety as their "paramount consideration". The Parole Board is required by law to consider "all" relevant information.

Corrections will strongly defend Mr Gilmour's claims, assistant regional commissioner Alastair Riach said in a statement to the Herald.

"Parole assessment reports are submitted to the New Zealand Parole Board by the Department of Corrections with input from a number of staff," Mr Riach said. "The reports are subject to review and moderation as part of the Department's normal quality assurance processes."

Probation reports submitted to the Parole Board are normally in two parts and carry the names of the prison case manager, who reports on the prisoner's conduct while in custody, and the assigned probation officer whose role includes identifying possible release conditions and assessing the risk to the public.

A spokeswoman for Parole Board chairman Justice Warwick Gendall, QC, said the board had not been aware of the allegations and had no comment.

Corrections Minister Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga declined to comment.

In his statement of claim, Mr Gilmour said that passages removed included his concerns that Pumipi had not addressed his anger, drug and alcohol problems, and his "strong recommendation" that he undergo a psychological assessment "given the graphic nature of his past" offending.

The board identified the same risks and shortcomings and requested that Pumipi attend a drug treatment unit and asked for a psychological report focussing on Pumipi's "anger issue" when he first appeared.

Pumipi was released on his second appearance, on 21 July, 2014, after he had done an alcohol treatment course and been seen by a psychologist. The psychologist rated him a "moderate risk of future violence".

Mr Gilmour, 66, a probation officer since 2000 who has written hundreds of pre-sentence and parole reports, said in his claim that he discovered his report had been changed after the Parole Board hearing in January last year.

He alleges that his practice manager then requested that he retrospectively agree to the changes. Mr Gilmour refused and filed complaints.

The practice manager subsequently added notes to Mr Gilmour's report stating that he had authorised the changes because it "was not to [mandatory standard] and had victim information and too emotive comments", the claim said.

Mr Templeton said that the practise manager's allegation had been "strongly rebutted in the court proceedings filed".

What was removed?

Deletions included:

"Alcohol and drug use [had not been addressed and] may be deeply ingrained ... Anger management has not been addressed ... This needs to be looked into before his release as his anger is not of a domestic spontaneous nature rather ... he takes deliberate steps to obtain weapons and use them.

It is strongly recommended that Pumipi undergo a psychological evaluation ... which would give further insight into his attitudes [assist with development of ] management strategies ... help assessment of his risk of harm to others and his risk of reoffending which is presently assessed for both as high."

Herald's Questions to Department of Corrections

• Why was Mr Gilmour's report changed and deletions made, when it had passed mandatory standard quality check, and why were they made without the author's knowledge and permission?

• Why was it then lodged with the Parole Board under Mr Gilmour's name?

• On whose initiative were the changes and deletions made and why?

• Were any security issues overridden in this process?

• Was the risk assessment intentionally sanitised?

• Mr Gilmour's assessment regarding risk was tacitly endorsed by the fact the Parole Board identified the same issues, namely drug, alcohol and anger, and requested a psych report. It may therefore be inferred these were shortcomings in the amended probation report. Please comment?

• Have any changes been made to your processes as a result of these claims by Mr Gilmour?

Response from Corrections

Alastair Riach, Assistant Regional Commissioner, Northern Region:

"A current Corrections employee has filed proceedings in the High Court against the Department in relation to his input into a Department parole assessment report.

Corrections will be strongly defending the claims made against it.

Parole assessment reports are submitted to the New Zealand Parole Board by the Department of Corrections with input from a number of staff. The reports are subject to review and moderation as part of the Department's normal quality assurance processes."

Timeline

October 2013: Gilmour allocated to do the probation section of a parole assessment report on Pumipi who had applied for release on parole with an eligibility date of January 2014.

5 December 2013: Gilmour completes report, forwards for checking, removes victim information at request of service manager.

6 December 2013: Service manager signs report off as meeting quality assurance standards.

10 December 2013: Service manager requests Gilmour makes further changes and deletions, in particular to risk assessment section. Gilmour refuses on basis report had been finalised and quality checked.

7 January 2014: Pumipi appears before Parole Board.

24 February 2014: Gilmour discovered that on 13 December 2013 the report had been extensively changed by another probation officer, including the deletion of 15 paragraphs. On or about the same date, the service manager asked Gilmour to agree to a note being put on the file to the effect that he agreed to the changes made. Gilmour refused and made a complaint.

24 May 2014: Gilmour found two computer notes had been entered, apparently authored by the Service Manager stating that changes were made to the report by another probation officer on that manager's instructions and that the author was not Gilmour even though the system "still shows him as the author", and that the report had been "finalised by case managing staff " at Ngawha Prison.

21 July 2014: Pumipi released on parole after second appearance before the board.

February 2015: Pumipi disappears from address his parole conditions require he reside at. Dissatisfied with the progress of his complaints, Gilmour sues Corrections.