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Questions over escape of prisoner

Simon Power
National Party Law & Order Spokesman

19 October 2006

Questions over escape of prisoner

Corrections and the Police have some explaining to do over the escape of a violent criminal in New Plymouth, says National's Law & Order spokesman, Simon Power.

He is commenting on the escape from a Corrections programme of Leslie Peter Ross, a Mongrel Mob affiliate with more than 200 convictions. He stole a Probation Service van on Thursday last week and drove to Palmerston North, evading police in a high-speed chase before being caught yesterday.

"There are some serious questions that must be answered," says Mr Power.

* Why was a man with convictions including violence toward police, carrying firearms and other weapons, and escaping from custody, put into a programme where he was not locked up, but who police said was dangerous and should not be approached, and who was caught only after intervention by the Armed Offenders Squad and a police dog?

* How did he get the keys to the van, or did he regularly drive it?

* Why did it take 1½ hours for Corrections to alert police when they noticed he was missing?

* Why did it take five days - from October 12 to October 17 - for the public to be alerted to his escape when his distinctive face tattoos would have aided an earlier capture, and when it was known he had connections in the Manawatu/Wanganui area?

"This is most concerning, and I believe the public have a right to answers from Corrections Minister Damien O'Connor and Police Minister Annette King over what seem to be serious breakdowns in procedure and assessment.

"This has the smell of yet another Corrections Department shambles about it.

"How much does it say about Corrections rehabilitation that this man was on a programme that Corrections itself describes as being 'aimed at men who are committed to living crime-free', and 'committed to change', and who are classed as 'having a low risk of escape.'

ENDS

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