Gareth Lawrence SMITHER 31/8/2021

Under section 21(2) of the Parole Act 2002

Gareth Lawrence SMITHER

Hearing: Tuesday 31 August 2021

at Christchurch Mens Prison via Teams virtual conference

Members of the Board: Sir Ron Young – Chairperson

Prof. P Brinded

Counsel:                                        Andrew McKenzie


  1. Mr Smither, who is 49 years of age, was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder in 1997.  He had earlier committed an indecent assault.  His security classification is minimum.
  2. We last saw him in September 2020. At that stage we recognised that his long-term (withheld) problems had somewhat settled over recent years.  He was on the Navigate programme which was a reintegration programme.  He had completed all of his rehabilitation programmes.  The hope was he might be released to (withheld).
  3. We, however, expressed concern about release to (withheld) in Christchurch given victim concerns.  Victims had also previously identified concerns about release to Otago.
  4. Prior to the hearing today we spoke to the victims.  They reiterated their opposition to the release of Mr Smither.  In addition, they were strongly against the possibility of a release to Christchurch given potential victim effect.
  5. At the beginning today counsel for Mr Smither indicated that some certainty about whether or not Mr Smither would be allowed to be released Christchurch would be helpful so he could identify the way forward.
  6. After hearing submissions, we decide that Mr Smither could not be released to Christchurch because of victim concerns.
  7. We acknowledge that Mr Smither does have (withheld) in Christchurch who are supportive.  We also acknowledge that Mr Smither had the likelihood, should he have remained in Christchurch, to release to (withheld) which would have been advantageous to him.  In addition, he has a relationship with the regional (withheld) there.  However, in the circumstances we think those supports can be replicated elsewhere in New Zealand.
  8. The proposal is that Mr Smither now be transferred to one of the Waikato prisons, either Waikeria or Spring Hill.  We think this needs to happen urgently.  Mr Smither would like to remain in Christchurch until Christmas and then asks as soon as possible after that he be transferred to one of those prisons.
  9. The object is that in the longer term he be released to (withheld) in Hamilton.  (Withheld) have a comprehensive wraparound support service and we hope that Mr Smither can be accepted for that programme in the longer term.
  10. In addition, Mr Smither will need to develop a relationship with the (withheld) so that he has a good contact with the (withheld).
  11. While our decision will be disappointing for Mr Smither, we think he can develop a similar support team that he has in Christchurch in the longer term in the Waikato area.
  12. In the meantime, we are satisfied he is an undue risk.  We acknowledge that his rehabilitation programmes have now been completed.  He is said to have a good understanding of his risks and the strategies to deal with them.
  13. We will see him again, therefore, by the end of June 2022 with the hope that he has been able to raise that transfer and that he is developing relationships in the Waikato area which will be good for an ultimate release. In the meantime, he is an undue risk.

This decision has been issued following consideration of parole in accordance with the provisions of an epidemic management notice issued by the Government on 30 March 2020 and in accordance with section 13A of the Parole Act 2002.  There has been a hearing conducted by a Panel Convenor and a Board Member.  All of the usual material has been considered and there has been a teleconference discussion involving the Board, the Offender, Counsel and Case Management.

Sir Ron Young