Phillip Field 'treated like a chief in jail'

Last updated 05:00 22/06/2011
TAITO PHILLIP FIELD: The former MP was jailed on 11 counts of bribery and corruption.
TRUST IN THE LORD: Taito Phillip Field's wife Maxine Gallagher-Field.
CRAIG SIMCOX/The Dominion Post
TRUST IN THE LORD: Taito Phillip Field's wife Maxine Gallagher-Field.

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Taito Phillip Field is still treated like a member of Parliament by his jailmates, says the wife of the first New Zealand politician to be convicted of bribery and corruption.

The Supreme Court reserved its decision yesterday over the jailed former MP's appeal.

Outside the court, Field's wife of 17 years, Maxine Gallagher-Field, insisted that her husband had done nothing wrong, and was a victim of his own generosity.

"This is someone who has been active in helping hundreds and hundreds of people. He is in prison for helping people. He believes in his innocence and we believe in him."

Field did not get special treatment in prison, his wife said, at least not from the staff. He was not in segregation and did not have extra benefits, but his fellow prisoners treated him like a chief.

"They're all together there. He's really good friends with everybody. It's like he's still a member of Parliament inside there. People come to him for help, for writing letters, or when they have a parole hearing."

Mrs Gallagher-Field visits her husband twice a week in Spring Hill Prison in Waikato, often with her daughter Jackie Ahtong, Field's son Galu, and other friends and family.

She did not want to reveal details about their visits, but said there were always "lots of hugs".

They were allowed to take him small sums of money but nothing else; they have set up an 0800 number so he can call them whenever he wants. Last Saturday was a family barbecue for visitors to the prison, and Mrs Gallagher-Field visited again on Sunday.

He was coping well mentally and physically, but was still in prison, she said. "There are days when he has his moments."

Mrs Gallagher-Field said while Field was still inside it was too early to consider if he would attempt a return to politics. But she had a lot of community support behind him, including several of his former government colleagues who still kept in touch.

"A few do. I don't want to give any names but a couple have visited him. Every week there is always someone visiting him. There's a lot of support, especially from the Pacific Island community."

The Thai workers at the centre of the building controversy wanted to visit their former employer, but Ms Ahtong said the family had told them to stay away. "I said no, not now, because of the way things get twisted, but they are good friends."

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Mrs Gallagher-Field flew with her family from Auckland to Wellington for her husband's Supreme Court hearing, where defence lawyer Helen Cull, QC, argued the case for overturning his convictions.

It has been a year and eight months since Field was jailed for six years. He comes up for parole later this year, but the family say they have been advised not to expect a release on his first hearing.

The day they did get to bring him home, Ms Ahtong said, they would throw a huge party.

"No, we won't," Mrs Gallagher-Field said. "We'll go to church."

The Supreme Court judges reserved their decision, which means another wait, perhaps another disappointment.

"All that matters to us is the Lord, and one day justice will be served," Mrs Gallagher-Field said. "He is not a criminal."

- The Dominion Post

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