Prisoner told to return from funeral ‘with contraband’

January 9, 2017 | By More

File image. © Andrew Bardwell

A remand prisoner says he was threatened with a hiding by other inmates if he didn’t return to prison from attending his grandmother’s funeral with contraband hidden inside his body.

The prisoner, 28-year-old Richard Graham, didn’t go back to prison after the funeral, but he’s there again tonight after being found by the Christchurch Police.

He will stay in custody until Judge Tom Gilbert sentences him on January 25 on two driving while disqualified charges. The charges are aggravated by previous convictions for the same offences.

Graham, a father of young children who were at court with his partner today, asked for his release on bail but it was refused by Judge Robert Murfitt who told him that making the application was “almost on another planet”.

Bail hearings are suppressed under the Bail Act, but Judge Murfitt gave permission for details to be published.

Defence counsel Steve Hembrow told the court how Graham’s compassionate leave application had gone so wildly wrong, while Graham stood visibly upset in the Christchurch District Court dock.

On December 13, Judge Gilbert convicted Graham and remanded him in custody for sentencing in January.

Graham then made application on December 19 for compassionate leave from prison to attend his grandmother’s funeral the next day. He was allowed leave from prison on December 20 from 9am to 4pm as long as he stayed under the supervision of his mother.

His mother picked him up from the prison as arranged.

Mr Hembrow said that because of a family dispute, Graham’s father barred him from the going to funeral and told him he would be trespassed and arrested.

Graham was depressed and anxious and did not know what to do, so he left his mother and had been living with a relative of his partner at an address in Linwood until his arrest.

Mr Hembrow said Graham wanted to apply for bail because he feared for his safety in prison. “Threats have been made to him,” he said. “He was told that if he didn’t come back from compassionate leave attending his grandmother’s funeral with contraband hidden in his body, he would be getting a hiding.”

Judge Murfitt said Graham was being unrealistic. He had been held in custody because he failed to keep appointments with probation, and he had then been granted an indulgence by Judge Saunders to attend the funeral.

“You didn’t attend the funeral and then didn’t turn up back at prison,” he said. “I would not remotely consider granting you bail that has been refused by another judge, when you have already shown that you don’t comply with your obligations.”

Police prosecutor Edana Sparks asked for Judge Murfitt to “certificate” the bail breach so that it would appear on Graham’s criminal record, and that was granted.


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