Wednesday November 22, 2017   Last updated 18:42PM
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Free Vicki Letele

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Free Vicki Letele
WILLIE JACKSON

Are we a harsh country? That’s what we are asking after the Parole Board’s decision not to release Vicki Letele a convicted fraudster who is dying in prison.

Letele has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and has been given less than six months to live.

Prime Minister John Key said “I would have thought we’re a pretty compasionate country” and certainly many of us would like to think that also.

It seems inconceivable that this young woman has not been released yet so that she can die with some dignity with her three children and whanau.

The Parole Board says Letele’s situation doesn’t meet the exceptional circumstances test yet. When the circumstances become exceptional they will consider releasing her.

The problem with that though, is that the Parole Board’s definition of exceptional circumstances is ridiculously narrow. Exceptional circumstances to the parole board means you can only get out if you have one or days to live.

For Pete’s sake, let her spend some precious time with her children before she dies. Surely she could be given home detention if they are so desperate to make sure this sick woman doesn’t enjoy her freedom.

Perhaps Vicki’s family background is being held against her. Her father David Letele is a former gang boss who did a number of years inside. David though has since turned his whole life around and is doing some wonderful work with our people in South Auckland.

Some people never forgive and I wouldn’t be surprised if some members of the parole board have long memories.

David’s son, the young David Letele - otherwise know as the Brown Butterbean - has been advocating strongly for his whanau desperately pleading for sympathy for his sister. He does not try to defend his sister’s crimes and is only asking for compassion.

I and my organisation the Manukau Urban Maori Authority couldn’t agree more and we are asking the Parole Board to do the right thing. Our former CEO, my Mother - Dame June Jackson, was the longest serving Parole Board member in this country. She is appalled that Vicki Letele is still in jail.

Mum said they are not dealing with a murderer, rapist or violent offender so they should be lenient. My mother also says “People who oppose Vicki’s release need to shine some light upon their dark hearts, if not for her, then for her children”. My Mum is right.

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