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Serco loses Corrections report challenge

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 11/08/2016

A Corrections report into fight clubs at Auckland's Mount Eden prison has been given the green light by a court following a legal challenge from private prison operator Serco.

Serco in February called for a judicial review into the chief prison inspector's draft report into organised fighting among inmates and access to contraband at the jail.

The company wanted the report rewritten to give it a chance to reply to information given to investigators by anonymous prisoners, ex-prisoners and staff, saying it could potentially have "very significant" consequences for its business.

It also complained about the way the chief inspector approached the terms of reference and what appeared to be a decision to look only at the negative.

But the Corrections Department on Thursday announced the High Court review had found the "investigation was fair and the report is without error".

Corrections chief Ray Smith said the department would not comment further while both parties decided how to proceed.

"I must consider when and in what form the report is to be released to ensure any security and privacy issues are managed, which is why I will be consulting with the Office of the Ombudsman."

In a statement, Serco chief executive Mark Irwin said the company accepted the ruling.

"We have always accepted the recommendations of the report, but brought the proceeding because we had genuine concerns about the process," he said.

"We have acknowledged that under our management, following a period of good performance, standards in Mount Eden slipped in early 2015, and we have apologised for this."

He said the company would work with Corrections on the next step.

Serco took over the management of the Mount Eden remand prison in 2011, after winning a $300 million, 10-year contract.

The discovery of fighting footage uploaded to the YouTube streaming video website triggered an investigation into organised fighting and access to contraband in the prison, and came at a time when Serco's contract was up for review.

The government stepped in to run the prison last July and didn't renew Serco's contract in December.

Mr Smith said the prison was still in transition to full Corrections staffing.

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