Whangarei barrister Kelly Ellis considers herself as someone who is quite brave.
“I stood for Labour in Whangarei – that was brave.
“I did 15 seasons of motorbike racing and broke my neck and had skin grafts and bone grafts – that’s quite brave.
“But I don’t think I am ever going to go back to Serco.”
The prison is now on lockdown following reports of gang fights and serious assaults of prisoners, with The New Zealand Herald revealing
that a 25-year-old prisoner, Nick Evans, died from injuries – including a ruptured lung – after a violent incident at the prison.
Labour's Kelvin Davis has claimed the injuries resulted after he was dropped from a balcony, and the man’s parents have since lawyered up with the goal of laying a complaint against police.
“It only takes – and I say that from harsh experience, having been bashed in a cell before – a second or two for things to become very, very different in terms of your health in prison, as we are hearing,” Ellis told NZLawyer
“Do I think that Serco has sufficient staffing levels to provide a reasonable level of safety when lawyers visit? No.
“You go in there and you’re on your own. There is often no staff around. I would go in there, but I wouldn’t want to be on my own, I’d want somebody big and strong and preferably armed with me, because Serco just does not provide the adequate level of protection.”
And it’s not just Ellis, a number of lawyers have expressed their safety concerns to her also.
Another concern for lawyers around the Serco turmoil is the backlog it appears to be generating in court.
According to the Herald
, in Auckland District Court yesterday Judge Nevin Dawson labelled the situation as a "real concern" and said his court was being held up because "the prison simply hasn't done its job".
Ellis said she hadn’t yet experienced the court backlog reported by other media, but she hadn’t had clients in custody who have had appearances this week.