Ex jail-house lawyer's time in Dunedin done

Arthur Taylor did not make it to law school but it will not stop him holding the powerful to...
Arthur Taylor did not make it to law school but it will not stop him holding the powerful to account, he says. PHOTO: GERARD O'BRIEN
Former jail-house lawyer Arthur Taylor has spent six months in Dunedin since being released on parole. But the honeymoon might soon be over as he eyes a move north. Rob Kidd reports.

When someone turned up at Arthur Taylor's Dunedin home wanting to buy a gun, he told them staunchly: "I'm retired from all that sort of carry-on."

This week marked six months since the 63-year-old's release from prison and his transition from jail-house lawyer to legal advocate.

He has lived with fellow human-rights campaigner and lawyer Hazel Heal and her family since the Parole Board deemed him fit for release.

"It's been brilliant," Mr Taylor said.

He told the Otago Daily Times the people of Dunedin had been "very welcoming" and people had been requesting selfies with him since his arrival.

But his stay appears to be coming to an end.

This month alone he had been back and forth to the North Island working on various legal battles.

And Mr Taylor had been splashed across numerous news platforms after a Waitangi Tribunal report released this week found stripping prisoners of the right to vote was inconsistent with treaty principles.

He continued to lead the charge to have the 2010 voting ban reversed.

Mr Taylor said a move to Wellington by Christmas was on the cards.

"I'll be very sorry to leave Dunedin but most of the work is in the North Island," he said.

Originally, Mr Taylor had planned to study law at the University of Otago but after he was declined entry at the start of the academic year, he rethought his approach.

The law allows corporations to be represented by a non-lawyer, a provision which meant he could have the same standing without putting himself through a law degree.

It was not as though he needed to prove himself, Mr Taylor said.

"People already know I know what I'm doing," Mr Taylor said.

While incarcerated, Mr Taylor received numerous requests from other prisoners to help them out with difficulties they were experiencing behind bars.

Since being out, he had been inundated to astonishing new levels.

"Every day I have to do a triage process," he said.

Though he could only lend his legal mind to the most severe or wide-reaching cases, Mr Taylor said he tried to give everyone advice where possible.

The seal of approval from prisoners was one thing but the ex-crim had also been given a clean bill of (mental) health by a Corrections psychologist who assessed him between March and July.

The report, provided to the ODT, said he was on an "offending desistance pathway ... given his lack of offending in recent years, his age, and his developing pro-social self-identity as a `jailhouse lawyer'."

"Early in the treatment process Mr Taylor tended to dominate the discussions by talking rapidly and forcibly at times about his many issues with Corrections," psychologist Richard Greer said, but that lost intensity.

"At no time did he impress as having a personal agenda against any one individual and in the main his activities and efforts appeared to be reasonable and focused on system changes."

Though Corrections' RoC*RoI algorithm put him at high risk of reoffending, Mr Greer said that was an overestimation. Mr Taylor's likelihood of committing further violent crime was now low, he said. No further treatment was recommended.

While he had not quite made it to law school while in Dunedin, Mr Taylor had been a hit with the students after featuring in a video by the Otago Law Revue entitled "Sparthur Taylor".

Swigging a beer, wearing a police cap in a spa pool, Mr Taylor tells his interviewer what it is like in prison and

says: "Someone needs to take these buggers on and hold them accountable."

Mr Taylor's sentence ends in July 2022.

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