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Compassion possible for ill prisoner: PM

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 3/11/2016

Prime Minister John Key doesn't want to see people dying in prison but he says he's reluctant to say the the parole board should "absolutely" release fraudster Vicki Letele.

The 35-year-old is eight months into a three year sentence for a $500,000 mortgage fraud but is seeking early release after being diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Latele, a mother of three, is up for parole in April next year, with her full sentence to end in May 2019, but she has been given less than six months to live.

Doctors and social workers have submitted letters to the parole board supporting "release to a home environment where she can be supported by family and carers".

Mr Key said on Thursday he would not comment on the individual cases but there was a process for seeking early early release that he understood was being followed by the family in this case.

"I would have thought we're a pretty compassionate country. We do need to take on board the criminal activity that the person's undertaken but I don't think we want to see people dying in prison if, on compassionate grounds, it's reasonable they could be returned home," he said.

Mr Key said he had supported previous parole board decisions for early release on compassionate grounds.

But the Parole Board said in Latele's case that a terminal illness did not meet the exceptional circumstances threshold, and that she did not qualify on compassionate grounds either.

"Usually, compassionate release is made on condition that the prisoner reside in a hospice to receive the end of life palliative care. The time will inevitably come when [her] condition deteriorates to the extent that she requires hospice care and, at that time, compassionate release would be appropriate," parole board chairman Warwick Gendall, QC, said.

"But at the moment that is not the case, given the very careful management of her condition by the health team that is being undertaken in prison."

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