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Debbie Ashton report

Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Corrections
Acting Minister of Police

9 July 2008

Debbie Ashton report

Minister of Corrections and Acting Minister of Police Phil Goff has welcomed the release of the ministerial inquiry into the death of Debbie Ashton and endorsed its recommendations.

“The purpose of the ministerial inquiry set up my colleague Annette King was to provide a full, frank and transparent analysis of events which resulted in the death of Debbie Ashton.” Phil Goff said.

“It was important that Debbie Ashton’s family, government agencies and the public understood what went wrong in terms of human error and failure of systems, to ensure there is no repeat of these circumstances and that there is accountability.

“Human error was found to be a key factor. The offender should have been recalled to prison when convicted of driving with excess breath alcohol and the decision not to was inexcusable. As QC Kristy McDonald, who conducted the inquiry, points out, instances of human error are inevitable when Corrections manages on a daily basis round 38,000 people on community sentence.

“However, systems should have been in place to avoid such errors leading to the tragic consequences which occurred in this case.

“The inquiry found that systems, policies and practices by Corrections were inadequate, there were failures in communication and a failure to provide proper direction and oversight.

“Corrections and Police accept in full the criticisms made and the recommendations to remedy the deficiencies that existed in the area of dealing with offenders who were witnesses and under the Witness Protection Programme.

“They are committed to and have to a large extent already implemented the recommendations made by the inquiry.

“They have apologised unreservedly to the Ashton family for errors made and extended their deep regrets to the family for the loss of their daughter, which I fully endorse.

“Kristy McDonald acknowledges that all who made mistakes in this case regret them bitterly and have been open and frank in their acknowledgement of their errors.

“While it is not possible to reverse the tragedy of Debbie’s death, it is critical that all factors which contributed to the error of leaving the offender in the community when he should have been recalled to prison are addressed,” Phil Goff said.

“Protection of identities under the Witness Protection Programme is important but the paramount obligation of Corrections and Police is to the safety of the community.

“Fundamental changes have been made to the management of offenders on the WPP who are on parole, and I am assured by both Corrections and police that the recommendations of the inquiry to prevent any further tragedies of this nature will be fully implemented,’ Phil Goff said.

ENDS

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