Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 5 Hansard (25 August) . . Page.. 1238 ..
MR HARGREAVES (continuing):
the Minister denied that the procedural breakdown in the release from Cooma Gaol of an ACT prisoner occurred at the ACT end of the process. I will say it again; the Minister denied that the procedural breakdown in the release from Cooma Gaol of an ACT prisoner occurred at the ACT end of the process. In the Canberra Times of 6 June the chairman of the ACT Parole Board was quoted as saying that "a lapse occurred" in the ACT procedure. Can the Minister tell the Assembly who is correct, him or the chairman of the ACT Parole Board?
MR HUMPHRIES: Mr Speaker, we are both correct. I have not got a copy of my brief from before here today but I will try to explain to members as well as I can from memory what the circumstances were. There is a procedure at the end of a non-parole period for the Parole Board to consider an application for parole from a person who is eligible. That generally happens at the time when a non-parole period finishes. Having considered such an application the board will either refuse it or accept it and convey the information to the New South Wales gaol system. There then will be a release of the prisoner, if a parole order is granted, out of the custody of the New South Wales prison system.
In this case it is true that, at the point where a consideration of the parole application would normally have been made, there was not a consideration of that person's application for parole. In other words, it would normally have occurred at a certain time, but it did not occur at that time. I understand that, because of some problem with the organisation of the area there, it was not considered by the board at the time it would normally have been considered. So that much is true; what the Parole Board chairman has said is quite true.
However, that failure to consider has nothing to do with the fact that the New South Wales gaol system subsequently released this prisoner from gaol. It was not a case of the ACT Parole Board accidentally, for example, sending off an approval to release when they, in fact, had not released or anything of that kind. There was, in fact, no communication between the ACT Parole Board and the New South Wales prison system, yet this prisoner was released from the gaol without any order having been delivered to them.
As you know, they claim that they received a telephone call and released the prisoner on the strength of a telephone call. Mr Speaker, I think we all know that that sounds pretty unlikely. As far as I am aware, the investigation is still going on in New South Wales. I will be surprised if we ever find a definitive answer from that process.
Mr Speaker, I can say with complete confidence that whatever shortcomings there were with respect to the Parole Board's consideration of any application for this, they did not lead to the release of that prisoner; except possibly to the extent that you might say that the New South Wales gaol system might have assumed that at the end of the non-parole period an order for parole would have come through from the ACT Parole Board. That is a very strange assumption to make, given that people do not always get parole at the end of their non-parole period. It is a matter of discretion. That is why we have a Parole Board - to decide whether they are eligible for such parole. Possibly, because that period of non-parole had ended, the New South Wales officer responsible made an assumption