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Marc My Words: How Safe, And Fair, Is Con Air?

Marc My Words.
From Marc Alexander MP 15th August. 2003
United Future NZ-Christchurch Supplement

How safe, and fair, is con air?

Violent prison inmates are being transported around the country sitting near unsuspecting passengers on regular commercial flights. While the prisoners must be escorted by guards they are not handcuffed nor restrained in any way. The public is not given any warning of the times of flying or destinations or the nature of their possible risk in the presence of these offenders.

More than 500 such inmates have been flown in the past two years; two of these whom had prior convictions for escaping from custody while others had convictions for violent crime such as aggravated robbery, assault and possession of firearms and explosives.

Take the case of Ritchie Stuart Clutterbuck who while was being transferred from Mount Eden Prison in Auckland to Christchurch on a regular Air New Zealand flight was alleged to have said that he wanted to "F*** up the flight". He then 'exploded into violent resistance', punching, kicking and kneeing a constable in the head. A ten minute struggle ensued with other passengers being moved away. Flight attendant Lillian Shadbolt had to pick up a fire extinguisher and threaten to hit Clutterbuck.

While it is forbidden to restrain inmates on flights as it 'may' pose a risk for them should any emergency occur, it is beyond belief that passengers should be placed at risk without their knowing!

It does not take a great imagination to recognise the potential risks an unrestrained violent offender poses on an aircraft. Just such concerns were made by Brian Davies, national organiser of the Corrections Association who commented that the Corrections Department had a history of providing insufficient resources to ensure the safety and security of the public, flight staff and prison escorts.

The ultimate irony of course, is that while convicted offenders fly around the country enjoying the view at tax-payer expense, their victims and families have to scrimp and save to afford to attend parole hearings often a great distance from where they reside.


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