Convicted killer Phillip John Smith has lost an appeal to the Supreme Court arguing for his right to wear a toupee in prison.

Smith, who was convicted of killing the father of a boy he molested and later escaped abroad, had sought to overturn a ruling allowed a prison manager to revoke permission for him to wear a wig behind bars.

The decision, released yesterday, said Smith's appeal of a judge's decision was declined under the basis that was no case for him wearing the hairpiece.

While serving his sentence Smith lost his hair, and in 2012 he was granted permission from the manager at Auckland prison to wear a hairpiece.


However the Department of Corrections prevented Smith from wearing the custom-made hairpiece after he used it to disguise himself when he fled to Brazil while on temporary release in 2014.

Philip John Smith was wearing his custom hairpiece when he fled New Zealand.
Philip John Smith was wearing his custom hairpiece when he fled New Zealand.

In December that year the manager revoked Smith's permission to retain and wear his hairpiece.

Smith sought a judicial review of the decision alleging there was a breach of natural justice, failure to take into account section 14 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act (NZBORA) and breach of his rights under to act to be treated with respect for inherent dignity.

On those grounds Smith sought declarations, an order quashing the decision to revoke permission for his hairpiece, as well as damages through the High Court.

Justice Edwin Wylie addressed the argument in High Court under section 14 of NZBORA saying "everyone has the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form".

He concluded that by wearing a hairpiece the applicant was exercising his right to freedom of expression and said "Wylie J made a declaration to that effect and also quashed the prison manager's decision".

The Supreme Court ruled in its decision that the case was now moot as there was no dispute about Smith wearing the hairpiece.

"Accordingly, the application for leave to appeal is dismissed."