23 Apr 2014

Apology over prison cell death

7:33 pm on 23 April 2014

The lawyer for the family of a woman who died in jail says her children are pleased with an apology from the Department of Corrections and now hope to move on with their lives.

A New Zealand prison cell.

Photo: RNZ

Anna Kingi's heart failed while she was being held at Auckland Regional Women's prison in 2008. Guards took 13 minutes to get the keys to unlock her cell and give her medical attention, by which time it was too late to save her.

The department's northern region commissioner, Jeanette Burns, said on Wednesday she accepted that there were some serious issues with how staff carried out their duties on the evening Ms Kingi died.

One staff member who was on duty in Ms Kingi's unit was subsequently dismissed, while another has resigned.

Ms Burns said lessons learned from the tragic event had been incorporated into training for prison staff.

The family's lawyer, Eric Forster, said although Ms Kingi's children still feel her loss and there was a lack of dignity surrounding her death, the apology does help.

He said a compensation payout for the family isn't huge but it does make a difference to them. "You can't really put a price on someone's life, and they understand that. We have a pretty non-litigious society when it comes to suing for personal injury because of our ACC legislation."

Mr Forster declined to say how much the payout is worth.