Inmate's children sue over death

MARTY SHARPE
Last updated 05:00 18/02/2014

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The children of a woman who died in her cell after prison guards wilfully failed to check on her are filing a claim against the head of the Corrections Department.

The seven children of Anna Selina Kingi intend to file a claim in the High Court this week against the department's chief executive and two former prison officers.

Kingi, 41, of Napier, died in Auckland Region Women's Correction Facility in November 2008, while being held on remand before sentencing on charges of theft and dishonesty.

An inquest into her death in 2012 listed a litany of slip-ups and malpractice in the prison, including officers attaching swipe cards to the end of a broom to show they had checked units when they had not.

Kingi died of an undiagnosed heart condition. Before dying she rang her cell alarm, but the guard on duty was too busy to respond, did not send anyone to check, did not record the alarm and did not refer it to the incoming shift.

When Kingi's body was discovered more than an hour later, it took 13 minutes to get the keys and open her cell.

Coroner Katharine Greig found it was impossible to tell whether Kingi would have died had the response been better, but concluded she had been "let down by the environment at [the prison] on the night of her death".

The coroner made a list of recommendations to the department's chief executive.

One prison officer was sacked after an employment investigation and another resigned after receiving a written warning.

Kingi's children range in age from 10 to 28. The eldest, Joanna Te Rure, said "it's been a long five years for us".

"Losing your mother in jail is not something anyone should have to go through. It's not something I'd want anyone else to go through. It might be a prison, but there is still a duty of care, and we believe Corrections should be subject to the same scrutiny as anyone else."

She said a meeting with Corrections last year failed to resolve issues to the family's satisfaction.

The 17-page claim states Kingi was "completely dependent on Corrections to provide for her wellbeing, health and safety" and the department breached its statutory duties in numerous ways that may have caused her death.

Each of the children is seeking $20,000 in compensation and $20,000 in exemplary damages, amounting to $280,000 in total, plus costs.

Corrections general manager corporate services Vince Arbuckle said he could not comment on the claim as the department had not been notified that it was being made.

"Corrections extends its sympathy to the family of Ms Kingi for the loss of their mother. Lessons learned from this tragic event have been incorporated into training in Corrections-run prisons."

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- The Dominion Post

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