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Corrections: Ashley's death preventable

Published: 8:22AM Monday December 11, 2006 Source: Newstalk ZB/One News

A report into the murder of teenager Liam Ashley shows his death could have been avoided by more rigorous application of the Department of Corrections regulation separating prisoners under 18 from those over it.

The 17-year-old was strangled to death in the back of a prison van in August while being transported from the North Shore District Court. George Charlie Baker, 25, has since admitted killing him.

The report shows information passed onto Chubb by Auckland Central remand prison was inaccurate, and parts were omitted, that Ashley could have been separated from other prisoners for all but one section of the journey to the court and that Baker was labelled an 'at risk' prisoner and was supposed to be monitored every 15-minutes, but this never happened.

Ashley was also supposed to be labelled a vulnerable youth, but this information was not passed onto Chubb.

Ashleys advised to seek compo

Ashley's family say they have been advised to seek compensation for their son's death.

They spent the weekend digesting the Corrections report but Liam's father Ian Ashley says the report fails to answer all his questions.

Ian says the report shows his son was handcuffed to the man accused of his murder twice during the day of the incident, but it does not explain why he was not segregated from others in the van.

He says he has been advised to seek compensation, suggesting the system is only concerned about cost savings and money.

The family has been offered a formal apology by Corrections CEO Barry Matthews.

But Ashley's parents have described the justice system as incompetent and they want heads to roll. They have described their son's murder as avoidable and unacceptable and they want changes made.

"We just want our boy back.  We want him here.  We want him here for Christmas but the reality is our boy's gone in an act of senseless violence," Ian says.

He says the report is not good enough.  "I believe it's been done in a very complex manner to bamboozle this family."

He says despite receiving the apology, he cannot accept Matthews' sincerity or the incompetence which led to his son's death.

Existing guidelines say anyone under 18 should be kept separate from adults "where practicable" and on this journey could have been done.

"They handcuffed my son to the murderer," Ian says.

The Ashley family blames the government, Corrections, and most of all Chubb.  Baker is a man who was known to be difficult, volatile and violent.

"Baker is a ticking timebomb," Lorraine says.

The man the Ashley family calls a psychopath, will be sentenced for their son's murder on Friday.

"We hope that good can come out of it - stopping it happening to someone else's Liam...cause you don't want this happening to your son," Lorraine says.

Call for O'Connor to quit

There are calls for Corrections Minister Damien O'Connor to resign following the release of the report.

National's Simon Power says it details more mistakes than anyone expected.

He says while O'Connor is not to blame personally, he is responsible for his department and should offer his resignation.

"I think what this report tells you is that there was a systemic failure by the Department of Corrections to do even the most basic things properly.  It's on a scale frankly we haven't seen since Cave Creek and my view is that the Minister of Corrections should resign in wake of that."

What changes will come from Ashley's death will not be known until the Ombudsman's report in several months.