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Brazil fugitive hit with more prison time

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 22/07/2016
Phillip John Smith © NZ Police Phillip John Smith

The lawyer for a convicted murderer who fled to Brazil while on prison release says his client deliberately sought a guilty verdict to preserve his right to appeal.

Phillip John Smith, 41, was slugged with an additional 33 months behind bars on Friday for acquiring a New Zealand passport under his birth name, Phillip Traynor, and flying to Rio de Janeiro in November 2014.

He had been on temporary release while serving a life sentence for the 1995 murder of the father of a 12-year-old Wellington boy he had been molesting.

Defence lawyer Tony Ellis asked Auckland District Court's Judge David Sharp to instruct the jury to find his client guilty, in the hope of appealing at a later date.

That was because Smith alleges he was deported from Brazil improperly by a magistrate with dementia and alcoholism, and wishes to pursue legal redress.

Smith would have waived his right to appeal in New Zealand if he pleaded guilty.

"In my 13-plus years on the bench, I've never asked a judge to instruct a jury to bring in a guilty verdict," Dr Ellis said.

"That may seem strange, but we are calling it an uncontested jury trial."

Judge Sharp said he had no authority to instruct the jury in this way but commented that the prosecution's case was strong.

The jury quickly found Smith guilty on charges of false representation and escaping lawful custody.

Earlier, it was heard Smith used periods of temporary prison release to successfully apply for a passport under his birth name in June 2013.

He had instructed a former co-prisoner to serve as his identity guarantor and inform authorities Smith was working as a marketer in the Manawatu-Wanganui region.

In September 2014, Smith subsequently made an online booking using his new passport for an LAN flight from Auckland to Rio de Janeiro, paying with a prepaid debit card. He then used a further temporary release in early November 2014 to withdraw $US7500 ($NZ10,700) and $NZ6000 from two separate bank accounts, and to fly to Brazil.

However, he was deported back to New Zealand later that month after an investigation by Interpol and Brazilian authorities.

Speaking outside court, Dr Ellis said the 33-month sentence resulted in an effective concurrent term of only 11 months' imprisonment.

He read a statement from Smith apologising for his getaway and expressing his wish to return to community life in the future.

"I accept my escape to Brazil was a huge mistake, and I regret in particular the immense impact my actions have had on others," Smith said.

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