Gareth SMITHER - 31/05/2018
Under section 21(2) of the Parole Act 2002
Hearing: 31 May 2018
at Christchurch Men’s Prison
Members of the Board:
- Hon M A Frater (Panel Convenor)
- Assoc Prof. P Brinded
- Ms P Rose
- Mr J Thomson
Counsel: Ms S Bailey
DECISION OF THE BOARD
- Gareth Lawrence Smither, aged 46, is serving a life sentence of imprisonment for murder. He was sentenced on 5 December 1997 and became eligible to be released on parole on 3 July 2007. He has been in prison now for over 21 years.
- He last appeared before the Board a year ago. At that stage he was relatively recently back in prison after spending approximately five years in [withheld]. He was not finding it easy. He acknowledged experiencing low mood and suspiciousness following a reduction in his medication. The Board was naturally concerned about this and his assertion that he was not seeing a forensic psychologist regularly. They asked that that be facilitated, as a matter of priority. They also supported his plan for release through [withheld], but made it clear that supervised day paroles to that facility would only be appropriate when his mental health was stable.
- In the last year Mr Smither has signed off voluntary segregation, which enabled him to move, first to [withheld] and, more recently, to the self-care units [withheld].
- He has retained the minimum security classification he has held since the beginning of 2017 and is working in a trusted position, as a cleaner in the administration building, which is outside the main prison wire.
- We were fortunate to have not only a detailed parole assessment report for Mr Smither, but also a psychological report prepared by Ms [A], a departmental psychologist and a forensic report co-authored by [B], a senior forensic psychologist, and Dr [C], a consultant psychiatrist, both of whom are actively involved in overseeing Mr Smither’s mental health and medication regime, and were present today.
- Mr Smither is not unrealistic about his prognosis and the appropriate way forward. His counsel, Ms Bailey, did not seek parole. Mr Smither accepts the need for careful reintegration before there can be any possibility of safe release to [withheld]. Rather, through his counsel, he sought the Board’s support for his plan, as outlined above.
- Obviously, central to all of that is his mental health. Over the years different professionals involved in his care have made various diagnoses. [withheld]. [withheld].
- It seems that, notwithstanding Mr Smither’s assertions to the contrary at the last hearing, he has remained under careful review by the forensic team since his return to prison and will continue to do so until and following his release, whenever that may be.
- Both Dr [C] and Mr [B] support Mr Smither’s release to [withheld], where it is thought he will do well.
- But that remains some time away.
- Mr Smither is currently being tested in a range of situations. He is said to be managing well living in a self-care unit with three other offenders. Nor are there any issues concerning his work.
- He has not yet been approved for participation in guided releases from the prison, for example to shop for his unit, but we would support his doing so, as and when deemed appropriate by the prison authorities.
- [withheld]. He is aware of the need to be open and honest with his supporters and it would seem that he has made progress in this regard.
- There was no question of granting parole today. It is declined. Until Mr Smither maintains a longer period of stable mental health, particularly when he is experiencing new situations and stressors, we cannot be satisfied that he has reached the point where he can safely be released – even to the structured environment of programmes such as that offered by [withheld]. Accordingly, parole is declined.
- Mr Smither’s next hearing will be in approximately a year’s time and must be held before the end of May 2019, at the latest.
- Updated psychological and forensic reports are required for the next hearing.
Hon M A Frater