Gareth Lawrence SMITHER 2/9/2020

Parole Hearing

Under section 21(2) of the Parole Act 2002

Gareth Lawrence SMITHER

Hearing: 2 September 2020

At Christchurch Men’s Prison

via AVL to New Zealand Parole Board Offices

Members of the Board: Sir Ron Young (Chairperson), Associate Professor P Brinded, Dr Greg Coyle, Mr B McMurray

Counsel:                                           Mr C Nolan

In Attendance:                                  (withheld)

Support Persons: (withheld)


  1. Mr Smither was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder in 1997. He has previous convictions for indecent assault in 1991. He is 48 years of age. Mr Smither has a long history of (withheld).
  2. We saw him last in December 2019. At that stage he was in self-care within the prison and participating in the navigate programme. He is working as a cleaner.  There was  some concern about (withheld). He had been skipping work on a regular basis because he was not feeling well, (withheld).  He has also had (withheld).  We also noted there was concern about a Christchurch release because of victim presence in Christchurch.
  3. As to the current position we have a report from (withheld), who says that Mr Smither has been making good progress and has no particular mental health concerns that he had been able to ascertain over the proceeding nine months. His medication appeared to be working although he did have days in which he was feeling (withheld).  Overall (withheld) thought he had good support from his parents and thought the (withheld) proposed release would be ideal for Mr Smither.
  4. We also heard from the (withheld) programme supervisor (withheld) who complimented Mr Smither on the hard work he had done and the fact that more recently he had been taking the lead at the (withheld) discussions
  5. Mr Smither said that over the last four months he thought his (withheld) had improved. He had been (withheld) than previously prescribed and he had made every effort to try to ensure he went to work in the prison each day.
  6. We were told by (withheld) from (withheld) that they would give Mr Smither extensive support should he be released to their residence.
  7. Mr Smither has had a number of outings within the community and had always behaved well.
  8. We are satisfied that Mr Smither remains an undue risk and cannot be released. We consider that Mr Smither needs to show over an extended period of time that his (withheld) is stable. Mr Smither has a long history of (withheld) followed by periods when he has been relatively well and then returned again to poor (withheld).  It is we think vital for our risk assessment and he show now that his recent improvements (withheld), some only of four months’ duration, can be or are continued on for the next 12 months and so we will see him again in 12 months’ time.
  9. One of the difficult issues with respect to Mr Smither is where he can be released to.  As we have said Mr Smither has worked with the (withheld) and the (withheld) over considerable time.  (withheld)  know Mr Smither well and have an extensive plan for him probably over the next two years and more as to how they would work with him and support him at their residence.
  10. However as we told Mr Smither today the family of the victim strongly opposes his release to Christchurch.  Because we are not releasing Mr Smither today we do not need to make a final decision about whether a release to Christchurch is appropriate for Mr Smither. However we consider the way forward for him is as follows. Without deciding the matter  there is a possibility of a release to Christchurch. We suggest a plan be formulated which would do the best to protect the victims from contact with Mr Smither while acknowledging the importance of (withheld) to Mr Smither.  We consider that would involve Mr Smither being limited by Special Condition monitored by GPS to a relatively small area around (withheld) residence in Christchurch upon his release to that organisation. Then when he has completed the (withheld) reintegration and is ready to move on he would be prohibited from living or coming to Christchurch.  We raise that as a possibility.
  11. We note from previous information from the victims that they would strongly oppose his release to Otago or Southland.  There are victim family members resident in that area and we think it very unlikely a Parole Board would agree to that to release to Otago and Southland.
  12. The alternative release arrangement which we have suggested Mr Smither also develop is a release to the North Island.  Obviously Mr Smither will need, as Dr Folds and the psychologist has recognised, significant support upon his release. So Mr Smither will need to investigate appropriate organisations who might offer that long‑term support for him on release and beyond in the North island that offer similar support to the (withheld).  In the meantime he remains an undue risk. We will see him again by the end of August 2021.

Sir Ron Young