RSA triple killer William Bell claims Corrections discriminated against him, court hears

Notorious RSA triple killer William Dwane Bell awaits a judge’s ruling on his case against Corrections.

Bell murdered three people and wounded a fourth at the Mt Wellington-Panmure RSA in December 2001.

The high-profile prisoner has sought a judicial review of the changes of his security classification that were made by Corrections last year.

Several changes were made after an allegation made via Crimestoppers that Bell was going to kidnap a female staff member in a bid to escape.

That claim had followed an anonymous accusation he was going to poison staff or fellow prisoners.

The changes in Bell’s classification included him being placed as a maximum security risk.

Bell, who is now a low-medium security classification again, has repeated throughout the two-day hearing at the High Court at Auckland that there was no evidence supporting the allegations.

He also called the suggestion he had been involved in smuggling contraband in prison a “cheap shot” and claimed the CCTV footage exonerated him.

Today in court he held up two small plastic bags containing mints in the dock to show the kind of bag that he passed and conceded he gave another prisoner a phone number.

“It is prisoner subculture,” Bell said.

He had previously explained prisoners pass things to each other every day – “This is the way of life in prison.”

Acting for Corrections, lawyer Camille Wrightson said Bell had claimed in his case that there was a breach of his right to be free from discrimination.

In his submission there may have been “unconscious bias” against his Māori heritage, intellectual impairment and criminal history.

Corrections denied this and the suggestion the restrictions imposed upon Bell were arbitrary.

“We also believe Mr Bell was treated with dignity and humanity throughout this process,” Wrightson said.

Also acting for Corrections, lawyer Helen Carrad said “very experienced staff” had considered the increase to maximum and were best placed to make such an assessment.

It was fair and reasonable given the need to act promptly in light of the allegations, she said.

“Security decisions are inherently about risk not certainty.”

If the court considered there was any reviewable error in the decision relating to the increase to the maximum that was cured by the reconsideration, she said.

Justice Mark Woolford has reserved his decision on the case.

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