Hastings Leader - 2021-10-13


Prison lawyer justifies big reputation


Jill Nicholas

Prison Break By Arthur Taylor, Allen & Unwin, $36.99 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Arthur Taylor is a name writ large in New Zealand’s chronicle of criminal history. He’s one of the country’s most notorious prison escapees, that includes breaking out of the allegedly escape-proof Paremoremo, now renamed Auckland Prison. His rap sheets run to an encyclopaedic 16 pages stretching from 1972 to 2012. Thirty-eight of his 60-plus years have been spent behind bars. He’s notched up 150 convictions and since his 2019 parole release he continues to challenge some of these. That’s one side of this man for whom crime has been a way of life — the other is his legal battles for prisoners’ rights, including smoking and voting. He’s frequently defended himself at hearings, trials and appeals and won, although not always. He’s taken grievances against the Department of Corrections and other Crown entities. There are senior judges who regard Taylor’s legal mind as superior to some of those who argue cases before them. They have LLBs, Taylor doesn’t. His life of crime — his first brush with authority was at 11 — precludes that. But he’s no bog-standard bush lawyer. His behind-bars legal studies have qualified him as a fully fledged legal executive. Fellow prisoners have benefited from his status. Written with assistance from awardwinning crime writer and journalist Kelly Dennett, Prison Break is a fascinating read. At no stage does Taylor downplay his highend crimes, including bank robberies, fraud and armed sieges, nor does he make apologies for them. In the foreward to Taylor’s autobiography Professor Emeritus Greg Newbold, another former high-profile inmate, describes it as “intelligently written . . . remarkable for its honesty” and “Arthur’s obvious passion for natural justice”. It’s praise that can’t be bettered. —


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