Clio Francis of the Sunday Star Times has written a feature on the treatment of teenage murderer Theo Kriel who was recently sentenced to life imprisonment for the killing of British schoolgirl Liberty Templeman in the small Northland town of Kerikeri (see posts tagged Libby Templeman) and of how he was living in a house in the settlement of Maungatapere during the trial until local residents organised a petition asking for him to be removed.
The property, owned by a charitable trust, was in effect used as a remand prison which is something that is not normally available to other youth offenders during trials. It is bound to lead to claims that he received special treatment.
To date no details of the location of Kriel’s present incarceration have been released and we assume that this is because it’s subject to suppression:
“The teenage killer of Liberty Templeman lived in a spacious six-bedroom house during his murder trial, and was regularly visited there by family until a petition by outraged neighbours in the rural Northland street saw him transferred to a police station.
Liberty Templeman’s parents, Rebecca and Andrew, were unaware of the special living arrangements for Theo Kriel, 16, until approached by the Sunday Star-Times yesterday.
She said she would be demanding answers from the authorities as to why Kriel was given such special allowances and allowed to have his mum with him when no consideration had been given to the needs of her own family.
She and her husband had had to miss their 13-year-old son’s first day at college because the murder trial had started on the same day and the authorities had not been willing to delay its start.
She said Kriel had never given her family a second thought yet the authorities had bent over backwards to ensure he could have his mother with him. “It absolutely disgusts me,” Rebecca Templeman said.
Kriel was not on bail during the trial, but had a number of unusual custodial conditions, including visits from his family and sole use of an otherwise empty facility.
In addition, there were house alarms primed to go off if he left, and he wore a monitored electronic bracelet at all times. His mother or a carer was with him constantly at the house, and his father and younger brother were also allowed to visit.
At weekends he returned to an Auckland youth justice facility. Details of the arrangements were suppressed for the duration of the trial…
From Kriel’s arrest soon after the murder until the beginning of the trial he had lived in a secure youth justice residence in Auckland.
His two-week trial took place at the High Court at Whangarei but a lack of suitable imprisonment facilities in the area meant he was kept at a house in the rural settlement of Maungatapere, 12km west of the city centre.
The house was owned by the Otangarei Trust, a charitable organisation that has residential and social service contracts with CYF in Northland.
But midway through the trial, residents learnt the identity of their new neighbour. An email was circulated and a petition taken door-to-door calling for him to leave. In all, 56 signatures were collected from residents on Pukeatua Rd.
“Effectively, they used the place as a remand prison and that’s not what it’s supposed to be at all,” a resident, who did not want to be named, told the Sunday Star-Times.
“It would have cost a lot of money too.”
Youths remanded in custody are normally kept in secure CYF facilities while their cases are before the courts.
In the past when no beds have been available in such facilities, youths have been temporarily kept in police cells or motels where they are monitored around the clock by security guards.
It is CYF policy to keep young offenders housed as close to their families as possible.
CYF acting general manager of operations Marion Heeney said Kriel was held in a secure youth justice residence in Auckland during the weekends while the trial was on, and in a “supervised community placement” during the week.
She said the trial judge had agreed the Otangarei Trust house was the best option considering Kriel’s age and the distance from Whangarei to the nearest secure youth justice residential facility.
Heeney said when CYF learnt a complaint had been sent to the mayor, local councillors and MP Phil Heatley they took action.
“The complaint meant the suppression order in relation to the custody arrangements for trial that prevented disclosure of his location had been breached, and the accommodation in the community had been compromised.
“The trial judge reversed his earlier decision and directed that Theo would stay in a dedicated area of the police cells away from adults during the week and return to the youth justice residence on the weekend.”
Howard League For Penal Reform spokeswoman Diana Taylor said it was sad there had been an “outcry” when agencies had been doing their best in difficult circumstances.
“The irony is that had Mr Kriel been bailed to his home address instead of being remanded in custody, the outcry would have undoubtedly been even greater.”
Additional reporting by Lois Cairns.”
According to figures obtained under the Official Information Act by another newspaper, The Sunday News , there are 20 other teenage killers in prison at present:
“THERE are 20 teenage killers currently behind bars. The inmates, all aged from 15 to 19, are serving time for murder or manslaughter, according to Department of Corrections figures.
They include Jahche Broughton, 15, who bashed 27-year-old Scottish tourist Karen Aims (sic) to death in Taupo in January 2008; and teenage cousins Courtney Patricia Churchwood, 18, and Loi-lea Waiora Te Wini, 15, who murdered retired Opotiki school teacher John Rowe in November 2008.
The statistics – released to Sunday News last month under the Official Information Act – don’t include Theo Kriel, the latest teen killer to be jailed. Kriel, 16, was sentenced last month to a minimum of 11 years’ jail for the murder of Kerikeri teen Liberty Templeman in November 2008.
There are 93 jailed killers aged 40 to 44 – the largest group of imprisoned killers. They are followed by 92 killers aged 35 to 39 and 91 killers aged 30 to 34, the Corrections figures show.
And there are two inmates aged in their 70s serving time for murder or manslaughter.
The figures come as police this week released national crime statistics revealing murder rates are at a 10-year high. Last year, 65 people were murdered – up from 52 the previous year.
The statistics showed a 9% rise in violent crime and that overall crime rose by 4.6%.
According to the latest statistics on court appearances, 126,221 offenders appeared in court in 2008 – 7450 more than in 2007. Among them were 11,000 defendants aged 20 to 24 on traffic-related charges.
In total, 1850 people were granted name suppression and 2670 interim name suppression in 2008-9. Up to January 31, judges had granted name suppression for 1016 people and interim name suppression for 1536 people”
Theo Kriel is thought to have published a video of himself on YouTube a few months before he murdered Liberty Templeman. There have been a number of comments, most of them derogatory left on the listing, including one that predicts he may be sent to Youth Justice North at Wiri, Auckland and then on to Waikeria prison near Te Awamutu. The latter is New Zealand’s second largest prison, accommodating up to 1031 sentenced and remand prisoners with security classifications ranging from minimum to high-medium.
New Zealand’s first detention centre for youth was established at the site in 1961. Following the abolition of borstal training in 1981, Waikeria became a youth institution. Waikeria Prison became a men’s prison in 1985 following the enactment of the Penal Institutions Amendment Act 1985 and has grown and evolved since that time.
The prison’s Youth Unit accommodates prisoners under the age of 18 and prisoners aged 18-19 who are deemed to be vulnerable in the mainstream prison environment.
Youth prisoners are offered a range of psychological, educational and vocational training in as normal environment as possible within a prison setting. The Focus programme is run in the unit.
Waikeria Prison also has a Special Treatment Unit for serious offenders with a high risk of re-offending. While the unit caters for a range of prisoners, all prisoners have been convicted of at least one violent offence.
The programme provided in the unit is the same as the Medium Intensity Rehabilitation Programme, but more time is taken to explain concepts and allow group members to participate and practice new skills.
If this is the case then Kriel is likely to be offered every opportunity to turn his life around and become a useful member of society on his release.