Rapist's rights abused but no compo, court rules
A serial sex offender's rights were breached when he was strip searched by prison staff, restrained to a bed and kept in a cell with no windows, the High Court has found.
However, the court said Auckland prisoner Nicholas Reekie would not get any compensation for the ill treatment.
Declaration of the breaches was all that was required by Corrections Department staff, because Reekie did not suffer any detrimental effects.
He also did not lay complaints at the time, even though he knew the procedure well and was a frequent complainant, Justice Edwin Wylie said.
Reekie was sentenced to preventive detention with a minimum prison term of 25 years in 2003. The sentence followed a jury trial where he was found guilty of several charges including rape, assault and sexual violation.
He had already spent 11 of his previous 14 year sentence in prison.
One of the convictions against Reekie was for raping an 11-year-old girl in 1992, for which David Dougherty was jailed for more than three years before being acquitted at a retrial.
In July 2002, the various charges outstanding against Reekie were called before Judge Thorburn.
Reekie was not present but in a statement he claimed he was prevented by Auckland Prison from appearing in court.
He argued that he had been maltreated in prison.
Corrections Department records showed Reekie started a hunger strike on July 18. Evidence from an Auckland Prison health care manager confirmed this.
Documentary evidence showed that on July 22 Reekie exhibited irrational behaviour - refusing to clean his cell, throwing his breakfast at staff and tipping a bottle of urine on the floor. Reekie denied this.
Reekie's claims included that night lights were left on, disturbing prisoners' sleep, and that toilet paper was rationed.
The majority of Reekie's claims about the conditions and treatment in the Auckland Prison High Care Unit and Auckland Central Remand Prison's Special Needs Unit had not been made out, Justice Edwin Wylie ruled.
But some breaches of the Penal Institutions Act, New Zealand Bill of Rights Act and its accompanying regulations were established, Justice Wylie said.
These occurred between May 2002 and August 2003.
Reekie was restrained to a tie-down bed by the ankles and he was at times held in cells without windows in the High Care Unit at Auckland Prison.
He was not always given the opportunity to take recreation time and when he was, it did not always comply with regulations. He was often denied the right to physical exercise.
Reekie was routinely strip-searched and no consideration was given to the necessity for each individual strip search or the other options available at both prisons.
A declaration of breach was sufficient remedy for ''wrong-doing of considerable potency'', Justice Wylie said. "It is not toothless. In my view, in the present case, a declaration of breach is sufficient remedy in itself."
There was no evidence that Reekie suffered detrimental effects from the breaches.
"He admitted in cross-examination that the conditions in the unit were not important to him at the time, and that they seemed insignificant in comparison to other issues then facing him."
Reekie made no complaint about the breaches to prison management, health staff, the prison inspector or ombudsman at the time. It was clear from evidence that Reekie was "very familiar" with the prison's internal complaints system, the inspectorate and the ombudsman, Justice Wylie said.
"Indeed, it was clear he was a frequent complainant."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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