Dotcom gets jail apology

TOM PULLAR-STRECKER
Last updated 09:21 15/01/2014

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Private prison operator Serco has apologised to Kim Dotcom for his treatment at Mt Eden after his arrest two years ago.

The firm, which has a well- documented history of blunders in its British, Australian and New Zealand operations, has also apologised to Fairfax NZ for providing incorrect information when questioned about the German internet mogul's time in custody.

Dotcom was arrested on copyright charges after a high-profile raid on his mansion at Coatesville, north of Auckland, in January 2012, which was requested by the FBI and carried out by the New Zealand police special tactics group.

The raid has since been deemed illegal by the High Court.

He complained at the time about not receiving the toiletry pack supposed to be given to all prisoners when they arrive in custody. The "new-arrival packs" contain bedding, a towel, toilet paper, soap, shampoo, toothpaste and a toothbrush.

Dotcom said he received none of those items, and was unable to wash himself after going to the toilet. In November he threatened to sue Serco over his treatment.

When Fairfax then contacted Serco, it initially dismissed his allegations about the arrival pack. It said it had no record that any complaint was made by Dotcom or his lawyers over his treatment at Mt Eden.

However, communications manager Jane Palmer has now said that statement was incorrect.

Serco had since retrieved an "archived record" which showed a complaint was raised, she said. "We apologise for the error. We have also written to the individual [Kim Dotcom] to apologise to him."

Dotcom said the apology, which he received yesterday, was the first he had received from Serco, but it did not go far enough. "They only apologise for the arrival treatment. Not for all the worst experiences that came after that.

"I was fearing for my health and my life because they did not look after my well-documented health issues to a point that I was unable to see my lawyers because I was paralysed from back pain.

"A flashlight was flashed in my face at least every two hours, sometimes more frequently while I was sleeping.

"In my one month in remand I was constantly tired and did not have a single night of uninterrupted sleep.

"They should apologise for those much more serious injustices."

He said he also suspected prison authorities may have knowingly allowed a phone call to be placed to him while he was on remand that was designed to entrap him.

Serco has run the Mt Eden Corrections Facility on behalf of the Corrections Department since the prison opened in 2011.

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Labour corrections spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern said it should lose its contract to run Mt Eden. "Because this is a privately operated prison, we rely on accurate record-keeping of what is happening in the prison.

"We have always been very concerned Serco is incentivised not to keep accurate records because of the arrangement they have with the Corrections Department.

"I do think it is concerning we have now seen an example of them keeping inaccurate records and, on top of that, not doing what they are required to do under their contract."

Dotcom is awaiting a hearing on his possible extradition to the United States, set for April.

Next Monday, which will be the second anniversary of the raid on his mansion, he intends to launch a political party, to be called the Party Party, at Shed 10 in Auckland.

The launch will coincide with the release of his album, Good Times, the recording of which was interrupted by the raid on his mansion. It is billed as "an optimistic LP full of pop-dance music perfect to party to".

- The Dominion Post

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