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Corrections official admits taking bribes

Published: 5:24AM Wednesday February 15, 2012 Source: Fairfax

  •  (Source: Photos.com)
    Source: Photos.com

A former Tokoroa Corrections Department official has admitted accepting bribes in return for wiping out offenders' community work hours.

Former community work supervisor Chanel Vern Scanlan, 38, was remanded in custody after pleading guilty to 35 charges of perverting the course of justice, bribery and corruption from 2007 and 2008, when he appeared in Tokoroa District Court last week.

Defence counsel Arama Ngapo-Lipscombe, told the court she had discussed applying for bail with Scanlan but he declined.

"He is extremely remorseful for his actions and regrets the impact it has had on his family and former work colleagues," she said.

Community work supervisors - who are paid between $19.27 and $21.21 an hour - each oversee and manage up to 10 offenders serving community work sentences on projects at places such as schools, reserves, community groups, marae and churches.

The Corrections Department website said the supervisors were supposed to share their knowledge and skills, keep records of offender attendance and provide a positive role model for offenders.

In a prepared response to Waikato Times questions, the department said "irregularities" were found, triggering the investigation that culminated in Scanlan's prosecution.

"Of the offenders who bribed Mr Scanlan, two have had action taken against them by the department; however, the others involved were outside the time in which breaches of their community sentences could bring a censure," the statement said.

Scanlan will appear in Rotorua District Court next month for sentencing.

Two community work supervisors have been prosecuted for work-related fraud in the past two years.

The department has been police-vetting those applying for frontline positions since December. Community work supervisors must disclose any criminal convictions.

From February 1, all applicants have been asked to disclose any potential conflicts of interest, including any gang or criminal associations. Drug checks and credit checks for applicants for financial positions have also been instigated.

Canterbury University criminologist Greg Newbold said he was unaware of the specifics of the case but it sounded like an imprisonable offence.

"You'd think the courts would treat this matter very seriously. Strong statements have to be made when these things occur, to deter others. An example really has to be made."

Systemic corruption was not rife in New Zealand, and though Newbold said he was amazed the offending lasted so long, he did not see it affecting public confidence in the criminal justice system.

"When these things occur they get caught and they're called to account - if anything it'll confirm people's confidence," he said.

TIMELINE

February 2012: Tokoroa community work supervisor Chanel Vern Scanlan pleads guilty to 35 charges relating to accepting bribes in exchange for wiping out community work hours.

November 2011: The Corrections Department clears a community work supervisor of any wrongdoing after he was accused of abandoning a 22-year-old woman on the side of a road in Taranaki who was the victim of a subsequent kidnapping attempt.

July 2006: A senior community work supervisor in Manukau is investigated for allegedly offering to reduce an offender's sentence in return for free car repairs.

February 2005: Waitemata police and the Corrections Department investigate after a complaint that a community work supervisor was offering to write off an hour of community work for $10.

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