So, how many times has David Seymour visited a prison?

Do you remember David Seymour grandstanding about visiting prisons after Judith Collins put new rules in place regarding MP visits to prisons?

I do.

ACT leader David Seymour has accused Corrections and Police Minister Judith Collins of trying to break the law.

Collins sent an email to other MPs, saying if they wanted to visit a prison they should organise it through a Private Secretary in her office.

Members of Parliament have a legal right to visit prisons, and notifying the Minister is considered a courtesy.

Collins denied yesterday that she was trying to keep tabs on opposition MPs.

However David Seymour claimed that Collins was breaking a law intended to provide oversight.   

“She seems to think she’s above the law,” Seymour said.

“All people, especially the government, must follow the law.”

Seymour noted that allowing MPs free access to prisons is one of the last lines of defence for people who might be mistreated.

“The idea that you’d have to ask the person who might be responsible for the problem…it’s an abominable, cack-handed constitutional error.”

I thought to myself, this has got to be something Seymour does all the time to issue a press release, grandstand and try to smack around my good friend Judith Collins.

So, I asked the Department of Corrections, via an Official Information request, how many times had David Seymour visited a prison, which prisons he had visited, and what were the offences of the criminals he was visiting?

Correction issued their response yesterday; it was rather brief.

“The Department does not have a record of Mr Seymour visiting a prison. Therefore, this request is declined under section 18(e) of the OIA as the information requested does not exist.”

So, the grandstanding ACT party MP from Epsom is so concerned about protecting his rights as an MP that he seems to have forgotten to actually exercise that right…ever.

I don’t know what the hell he thinks he is doing, but he really does seem to be acting like a petulant schoolboy at times.





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  • Crowgirl

    I think his youthful exuberance is showing. Either that or he wants to be part of the ‘cool’ crowd on the left who screech about everything.

    I thought it was SOP to notify the minister, not just something Judith Collins has implemented.

    • Seriously?

      Apparently it is not, I’m sure we would have heard if it was. I cannot imagine why it would be (a cumbersome extra step that serves no legitimate purpose), but can see what you might want MPs to give some warning to the prison itself if that is possible.

      Were you able to find a copy of the letter she sent to the other MPs? I could see it’s content reported, or rather I suspect what someone told a reporter that it contained, but I don’t trust the messenger or the media to represent the letter fairly.

  • Second time around

    Seymour is neither as capable nor as witty as he thinks he is. I hope his patronage does not spoil the death with dignity proposals, a topic that requires careful and mature thought.

    • Gaharis

      Yes this is correct. His supplementary questions in Parliament recently have been for the most part childish in my view and I have lost some of the respect that I previously had for him. He is coming across mostly as a smartass and often more than once a day.

    • He actually is as capable and witty as he thinks he is.
      But experience and maturity takes time.
      He’s got a real rush to the head of late where he’s a bit too comfortable and no longer working hard.

  • Right Wing Uni Student

    With all respect to Judith Collins, the more important thing is knowing the right is there, whether Seymour has needed to use it in the past or not is irrelevant.

    It’s like the right to be presumed innocent. I’m sure the majority of us here have never had to invoke this right and never plan to. But we certainly want this right to be preserved and many of us would fight for it to be. Part of the task of opposition MPs is to hold the government to account. How can they effectively how the government to account if they are restricted in being able to gather information, by the very person they are trying to hold to account?

    • KGB

      But she isn’t restricting them. She has simply asked that they give notice of intent.
      I would agree that this in an important security measure.
      It is not as easy to ‘get into a prison’ as people think. Even more difficult to enter a high security prison. I have been ‘locked down’ as a visitor during a problem at parole hearings for example. Unless you have to be there I’m sure they would hate allowing visits on parole days.

      • Right Wing Uni Student

        I don’t think it can really be regarded as purely a security matter. Surely the Minister is not the only one able to advise MPs when it would be safe to visit. I imagine MPs let someone know before they visit a prison, and if there is a security danger on that particular day they can be advised of that.

        • KGB

          When a MP notifies a prison they want to visit an inmate I am sure there is a degree of influence or pressure, that simply comes with their position. They would certainly be afforded more leeway than Aunty visiting the naughty nephew.
          Are MPs searched? Do drug dogs search their limos?
          Considering the riots caused by KD attention in Aus, I see nothing wrong with the minister in charge of corrections keeping tabs.
          I understand MPs are simply being asked to notify, visits will continue to be arranged directly through corrections.

          • Rebecca

            That’s assuming the MP does warn the prison of their “urgent” concerns and imminent arrival. My interpretation of the Green MP quote I posted earlier is a wilful declaration of “coming ready or not.”

          • biscuit barrel

            Thats what the Corrections Act says.

            “Any member of Parliament may, whenever the member considers it appropriate, enter a prison and examine it and the condition of the prisoners, and may inform the prison manager of his or her observations.”

            Its for Corrections manager to facilitate the MPs visit. Not the other way round.

          • Seriously?

            I suppose that in some circumstances (say alleged mistreatment), the unannounced nature of the visit may be rather important to the visit having any value.

          • Rebecca

            Well, theoretically I have the right to moonwalk down Queen Street in a bikini at 3am. Doesn’t mean it’s safe or sensible.

            In saying this, please accept I’m thinking about others: the detrimental effect on those unlucky enough to see the spectacle would exceed the risk to myself I should think.

          • biscuit barrel

            There is no arrangement needed, as they have a visit at any time as their right. They may only know when they arrive at gate.
            A personal visit to a prisoner is different and is just treated as per normal arrangements.

          • KGB

            So an MP can demand a visit by just turning up at the gates?
            Gosh I hope they visit as many victims in their homes under such urgency. I wonder how many MPs visited Susan Couch? Or Burtons victims family’s?
            This is not Shawshank Redemption land. Is anyone seriously suggesting MPs in NZ require immediate un-notified entry to a high security prison to ensure prisoners are safe? That their humanitarian rights are protected?
            Gosh I’m one of the (soft) good guys who sponsors a prisoner, he has more help and recognised rights than any victims.
            MPs should send a letter on a pretty letterhead just like the ones victims get.

          • biscuit barrel

            Absolutely. As if they are allowed to stop that for any reason that would be the excuse used often. enough

            I think there was another public institution ( not a prison) where the minister restricted MPS right to visits, as they had no unfettered right to visit

  • 10cents

    Whether or not David Seymour has visited a prison or not has absolutely zero relevance to the question he raised. His question is completely valid, so why try to distract it with a red herring? Slamming David Seymour like this actually does make it sounds like blind defence of the Honorable Mrs Collins!! (I think Mrs Collins does an awesome job BTW).

    • Seriously?

      Quite apart from that, the letter from corrections does not say that he didn’t visit prisons, it states that they don’t have a record of it and therefore decline to answer the question.

      That could be, and seems to be, because they don’t keep such records. If they kept records and the number was zero, then you’d expect that to be the answer rather than declining to answer the question.

      • biscuit barrel

        Thats strange because the act says this:
        “The prison manager must ensure that any observations of a member of Parliament are recorded and that a permanent record of those observations is kept at the prison.”

        So maybe the question should be, What if any observations were made by Seymour when he made a prison visit.?

        Observations are a very broad term. So they would effectively have to write down everything he said ( and keep it)

        • Seriously?

          I agree it is strange, but that is what the letter says.

          I image they keep a record of who has visited prisoner X, but may not keep that information in a form that allows then to filter it the other way – who has X visited or in order to answer Cam’s question how many visits to prison has X made and when (as he wanted it for a specific time-frame – since November 2014).

          The sort of records you speak of seem more apt to general visits to check on conditions rather than coming to talk to a particular inmate. Plus I suppose they might not have made any observations to record.

          • biscuit barrel

            Could it be that the minister wants a transcript of the Mps ‘observations’ after meeting with various prisoners and hearing their ‘complaints’
            The advance notice would make sure a suitable method of recording was available.
            Lest cut to the chase, Kelvin Davis has been meeting prisoners and the Minister wants to know what was said before they hear about it in parliament.

          • Rebecca

            Some opposition MPs may have an ambush mentality but I’m not convinced that Collins would fear an ambush with prisoner complaint not already known to her own department. If prisoners do tell Davis rather than official channels, more fool them which is the only answer Collins need give.

    • Rebecca

      Visiting a prison is not like a spontaneous visit to the Easter Show. If a MP just wants to visit an inmate then there are visiting hours and procedures. But also there are other visitors who may not share the attitudes of visitors to his electorate office and in fact may decide to take a dislike. The arrival of an unheralded MP may well prompt urgent redeployment of resources and apart from the disruption, it could impinge on the safety of others if guards have to be pulled from elsewhere. Seems to me it’s common sense for any VIP visit to a potentially dangerous situation to be arranged in advance, especially if the MP is planning more than an inmate visit. Just because MPs can turn up willy nilly does not make it safe, sensible or even desirable- assuming people are visiting in good faith. I perceive a storm in a teacup.

      • Seriously?

        That is a good reason to contact the prison involved and warn them, not a good reason to require the Minister’s approval. It was a silly idea, best forgotten.

        I’m a Collins fan, but defending her on this undermines the support given on the many other issues she confronts.

        • Rebecca

          She doesn’t require her approval, she asks that it be arranged through her office. For example, if 2 MPs propose a visit an hour apart- her office might prevail on them to attend at the same time to limit disruption. No doubt some would squeal at the hint of oversight but unless people argue that Collins aims to “shape” or veto prison visits, it’s just as likely to be a provedure to minimize disruptions and ensre safety in places where unlawful types can be expected to congregate.

          • Seriously?

            Sorry, your quite right, by lax language. Edited accordingly.

            She may well have intended it as being helpful to other MPs, but it was ill considered as it was clearly going to be seen as an attempt to keep tabs on them. A silly idea in my view. She ought to have merely reminded them to give the prison some warning.

            I can see where she was going though. I bet the lefties love turning up to Serco prisons unannounced and causing a bit of chaos.

          • Rebecca

            David Clendon (Greens:) “If I have urgent concerns about what’s happening in a prison I will continue to exercise my right to enter a prison at any time without going through the Minister’s office.”

          • Seriously?

            I think Collins is one of the best MPs we have, but this was a silly idea.

            There is a fine line between being a supporter and being a cheerleader. Cross the line too often and your support ceases to have any weight. It is a bit like hearing that Helen Kelly thinks Labour are right about “topic X”, you just think so what, next. In a way it is the willingness to call out someone for their mistakes / bad ideas that make the support of other issues worth listening to.

          • Rebecca

            Clendon openly states that he’s in the habit of entering a prison “at any time” meaning with disregard for the safety of himself or others.

            Maybe it’s easier for women to understand – there are all sorts of things women have the “right” to do, but don’t because in real life it’s simply too risky.

            Now that MPs have been asked to coordinate: if their defiance results in a crisis or injury, they’ll have to take responsibility themselves rather than screeching at the Minister. Seems to me Collins wins either way.

          • Seriously?

            Well, no. The quote you gave says he will do so if he has “urgent concerns” (however you define them), and says he will not go through the Minister’s office. That does not mean that he won’t give the prison some warning, and indeed that is what I think he should do.

            Giving the prison time to prepare is entirely sensible. Being required to give that notification to the Minister’s office is silly as it creates the appearance of a Minister keeping tracks on other MPs and needlessly adds an additional step in the chain as the Minister’s office then needs to tell the prison.

            It was a silly idea, no matter how well intentioned.

          • biscuit barrel

            The corrections act specifically says

          • biscuit barrel

            If its an hour apart its the prison managers job to attend to the details. The ministers office cant do anything as its impossible for ministers to have any minor operational say in things.

          • Rebecca

            Just for clarity, by “prevail upon” I meant the sort of persuasion/assistance you’d expect of any good secretary when he perceives suboptimal scheduling. I wasn’t saying that the secretary would exert operational control.

            Assuming that both MPs did inform the prison manager of their plans, the manager is unlikely to risk anything that might cause complaint that s/he tried to prevent a MP exercising his rights.

      • 10cents

        DId David Seymour suggest that MP’s were just going to turn up and walk in, irrespective of visiting hours or safety procedures? Nope. He simply questioned why it was necessary to go through the Corrections Minister when in some instances (in theory) it could be that very office that is the source of the problem.

        We do not have that problem yet in NZ, but imagine a scenario where ‘prisoners’ need political ‘permission’ to receive a visit from an MP. It is a potential conflict of interest situation that you would expect in any tinpot dictatorship, but not in NZ.

        To be clear, we do not have this situation happening in NZ today, under Collins or anyone else. Seymour is simply pointing out that the chain of command for coordinating visits should not include the very office that may have created the problem.

        • Rebecca

          If it ever arises that a problem caused by the Minister’s Office sabotages jail visits needed to overcome or document the impropriety- then I’ll stand by you 100%. Until then, I visited Paremoremo some years back when it was safer than today and saw for myself how quickly flash situations can arise. Unknown VIPs and even ordinary women being escorted around can prompt violent reactions, or so they told me. Seems to me that it’s self-indulgent and inconsiderate to decry any attempt to organize visits to risky environments. Perhaps if it were some other office than the Corrections Office it might be less offensive to some, but they ought to look in the mirror and consider whether it’s dislike of Collins or a real life issue shaping their response.

          • 10cents

            David Seymour did not suggest that visits should not be coordinated. He simply questioned whether the coordination should be done by an office that could potentially have a conflict of interest in how (or if) the visits take place.

            Nobody has suggested MP’s turn up un-escorted, without notification or not following due process.

          • Rebecca

            He also accused Collins of trying to break the law.

            If pressed sufficiently, my pick is that Collins will reveal “situations” that prompted her request. Wait for it.

          • biscuit barrel

            This happened before, as after some MPs went to a prison, Whaleoil was notified the ‘next day’ by some indiscreet private secretaries?

            “Three senior Labour MPs are sucking up to a career criminal. Yesterday they went to Paremoremo to visit Arthur Taylor to support his attempts to remove the smoking ban in prisons.

          • Rebecca

            Here’s what Stuff said the day after the visit:

            “Ms Collins said visits to maximum security prisoners, particularly with an escape record, were a drain on resources.
            “I’m staggered that these three Noddies would go and waste Corrections’ time.”

            Seems to me that the sizeable operation required to action the visit probably involved dozens if not more people, many of whom would have reason to be peeved by the visit.

          • biscuit barrel

            Our prisons arent in general run like the black hole of calcutta ( some may wish they were)
            Mps are mostly busy people, and not many voters can be found in prison.
            is the food good or bad, are exercise yards clean or dirty , is all small stuff.

            What has been happening is opposition Mps are visiting prisoners to later fling dirt in parliament.
            Serco and Mt Eden ended a ministers career recently and Collins wants to know whats going on in advance.
            hence the notification so that transcripts of the mPS visit end up in her hands ( as indeed Corrections is required to ‘record’ any observations).
            For some reasons , maybe haste, the transcripts have been incomplete or missing.

            As allways whos going to benefit from what Mps are finding in prisons, before its mentioned in parliament

          • Rebecca

            If true, then I agree with Collins that “noddies” are wasting Corrections resources trawling for dirt to embarrass government.

            Surely the statutory purpose for the MP privilege is to ensure prisons are humane and proper. Always you can rely on noddies to abuse the purpose and if it’s happening for political gain, then I say change the law to preserve its purpose but with anti-noddy provisions.

      • SaggyNaggy

        I believe that is the whole point Rebecca. If a spontaneous visit is “disruptive”, then the warden should be running his or her prison better. If you have to start moving people about to accommodate the MP, that justifies the spontaneity of the visit.

        And of course the MP is not visiting “in good faith”. That, again, is the whole point of having the right to visit without notice. You are trying to catch the department, and the government, out. That’s one of the reasons why we live in a liberal democracy and not a third world kleptocracy.

    • Isherman

      Which ‘question’ you refer to I’m not sure, however the simple issue here, is that Seymour accused the Minister of ‘trying to break the law’, which is demonstrably a baseless accusation. The law is that MP’s have the right to visit prisons, and Judith Collins’ email in no way attempted to circumvent or obstruct that, it was simply to point out a procedural courtesy which appears to be normal practice.
      That’s how I see it anyway.

      • biscuit barrel

        maybe its a courtesy for Mps of your own party doing so. But other parties ?
        Cant see that ever .

  • SteveWrathall

    So? Just because you don’t exercise a right during a particular time period, doesn’t mean that you approve of it being denied.

    • spanishbride

      Fair enough but Judith has not denied that right at all. She just wanted to be informed. Considering her portfolio that is a reasonable request and David has made a mountain out of a molehill.

      • Seriously?

        I think that the denial of a right was the effect of what she put forward. The clear implication of requiring that her office be informed is that if an MP did not do so then the visit would be denied. If not, it is not a requirement at all, it is just a courtesy.

        Why does she need to be inform anyway? Surely, the one that need some warning is the prison itself so that it can get organised.

        She may have had good intentions, but this was always going to be seen as an attempt by her to keep track of which MP visited and who they were visiting – a silly idea to start with.

        • Rebecca

          I checked out Section 161 of the Corrections Act. MPs do have the right to enter prisons “whenever the member considers it appropriate” during which they can inspect the prison and communicate with any prisoner about a complaint they made or their treatment in prison. I checkedV.02.Res.03 of the Prison Operations Manual that also says they can do this “at any time.” I see no obligation for an MP to warn a prison or anybody else that they’re about to descend on the prison.

          But Collins is no fool. She did this for a reason. As I said elsewhere, I’ll bet somebody flouted the convention of notifying the Corrections Minister’s office and caused chaos by arriving at the worst possible time. Just waiting to hear who it was. In response, Collins asked MPs to let her office know and the screaming began.

          • biscuit barrel

            You are right. Collins has no real reason to know about a visit in advance.
            A convention of notifting a minister in advance ?

        • Isherman

          And if that is the concern, then he may have been better to approach it in a slightly different way. Perhaps he could have sought a clarification of the rationale behind what appears to be a convention rather than a rule in organizing or notifying visits through her office, and, if he was not satisfied with the reasoning then perhaps challenge that directly, rather than blustering on about her somehow trying to break the law.
          Challenging a reasoning is legitimate enough I guess, but if that was his intention I think he’s done a poor job of it in this case.

          • biscuit barrel

            It doesnt seem to be a convention, even Collins just calls it a ‘courtesy’
            As it gives opposition MPs a chance to say Up yours to a minister, Im sure even Ms Collins would say the same if she was an opposition MP

  • LesleyNZ

    One thing my father instilled into us kids as we were growing up – your word means everything. Never ever commit to something that you have no intention of doing.

    • SaggyNaggy

      I actively campaigned against banning smoking in bars, despite hating cigarette smoke and thinking it is a disgusting habit. Human rights are important – it doesn’t matter whether you personally benefit from them or not.

  • Stephen Berry

    How many people who advocate for the right of homosexuals to get married have married a homosexual?

    • I haven’t sure, but that is different. He rushed off and issued a press release like his life was going to change…it didn’t, he hasn’t even visited once since the election so it was just grandstanding.

  • That’s a silly argument. He is not not liberty to say; but was responding to the fact that he shouldn’t need to. Arguably you could say Judith had not broken the ‘law’, unless some MP had tested the requirement, but she is has by implication, cast a cloud over the spirit of it. i.e. An MP should not have to ask permission.

  • localnews

    Those of us hoping for a resurrection of a right leaning party, lose a little more hope every time David Seymour lines up to fight with the opposition.
    I not interested in whether he has a point, I just wish he was talking about things that would endear him to his own voters. He probably isnt going to attract many left wing votes no matter how many points he scores.
    All his media time should be spent on message

    • biscuit barrel

      Trouble is , his professional knowledge as an electrical engineer narrows the area down quite a bit.
      reactive power could be a long time before it hits the headlines

  • XCIA

    There are a fair amount of mongrels on the list gravy train warming seats in our parliament that no one voted for and in their right mind would not have voted for them anyway. If I were Collins, I would want to know what mongrels were visiting my prisons too.