Gareth SMITHER - 02/12/2019

Parole Hearing

Under section 21(2) of the Parole Act 2002

Gareth Lawrence SMITHER

Hearing: 2 December 2019

at Christchurch Men’s Prison

Members of the Board:

  • Sir Ron Young – Chairperson
  • Assoc Prof. P Brinded
  • Ms M More

In Attendance:

  • Mr L Pullan – Corrections Psychologist


  • Ms S Bailey


  • [withheld]


  1. Gareth Lawrence Smither was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder and assault.  He is 48 years of age.  He was first sentenced in December 1997.
  2. We last saw him in May 2019. In May 2018 he had been returned to prison after five years at [withheld]. He was then in self-care.  There was then the possibility of Mr Smither attending the Navigate reintegration programme, undertaking that slowly over a period of time and eventually to [withheld].
  3. When we saw him today has continued in self-care and has been working through the Navigate reintegration programme.  He is employed as a cleaner in the administration building, which is a job of responsibility within the prison.
  4. Mr Smither has long-term mental health issues and they continue to plague him. Since we saw him in May 2019 he has had approximately one day per week absence from work due to his suspiciousness and paranoia. More recently, perhaps since November, that has improved. He has been overseen by [withheld]. We have the advantage of seeing [withheld] today who is his responsible consultant psychiatrist. In addition, we heard from Navigate and [withheld] who have offered Mr Smither a bed at their reintegration service.
  5. We have concluded that, primarily because of Mr Smither’s mental health, he is not well enough currently to be released. The problems we identify are that Mr Smither, over quite an extended period, has, as [withheld] said, been low in mood and has stopped working. Clearly, that difficulty was more apparent during winter but seems to have continued on. Even today, Mr Smither before us accepted that he had regular days off work when his paranoia intervened.
  6. Secondly, Mr Smither has reported an episode of [withheld] in recent months.  [withheld] said it was difficult to know what to make of that but felt it did not indicate a more substantial decline in his mental health. It is however, a matter of concern to us.
  7. His current mental health has also a parallel with his mental health at the time of the murder.
  8. We acknowledge Mr Smither’s recent improvement in the sense that he has apparently been less often away from work because of his mental health vulnerability. We look forward to a period of time when Mr Smither is able to better cope with his mental health and has a reducing need to take time off and can show over an extended period that he is able to cope.
  9. The other issue that was raised today arose from our discussion with his victims. They strongly object to Mr Smither being released to Christchurch. The victim’s family has some connection with Christchurch; there are visits and family members live there. Pivotal to Mr Smither’s release plans is his release to [withheld] with the support of [withheld].
  10. We do not express a final view about whether it would be possible for Mr Smither to be released to [withheld] but significant thought will need to go into that by Mr Smither.  [withheld]. Given Mr Smither’s vulnerable mental health and the uncertainty of appropriate accommodation we are satisfied he remains an undue risk.
  11. We will see him again by the end of August 2020.

Sir Ron Young