Jailhouse lawyer warms to Dunedin welcome

The last time former jailhouse lawyer Arthur Taylor was in Dunedin he was on the run in a stolen Land Rover after escaping Invercargill borstal in the 1970s.

Yesterday, the social-justice advocate touched down on southern soil on a flight from Auckland alongside Hazel Heal, with whom he will live at her ‘‘semi-rural’’ home.

Mr Taylor spent the past couple of days in Auckland after being released from Waikeria Prison on parole.

Arthur Taylor is planning to spend at least six months on parole living with human-rights campaigner Hazel Heal. Photo: Gregor Richardson
Arthur Taylor is planning to spend at least six months on parole living with human-rights campaigner Hazel Heal. Photo: Gregor Richardson
The high-profile prisoner was serving a jail term of 17 and a-half years for a raft of offences; a sentence which officially ends in June 2022.

Being back in the South, Mr Taylor recalled his ‘‘youthful indiscretion’’.

‘‘I always remember hiding out the back of Waipori Falls there waiting for it to go dark before we could come into town,’’ he said.

‘‘We ended up in a river with AOS [armed offenders squad] trying to get us off rock banks.’’

Mr Taylor comes to Dunedin on the eve of Orientation Week, a time of revelry for most students.

He was expecting a more low-key introduction to the city.

‘‘I’ve got no plans to burn any couches. I’m probably more likely these days ... to put the fires out.’’

Mr Taylor had planned to study at the University of Otago but said it had now rescheduled his entry in the second semester.

Had former law dean Mark Henagan still been at the helm, it might have been a different story.

They had dinner together a few days ago and ‘‘got on like a house on fire’’.

‘‘[We] sunk a few Heinekens the other night — and he paid for them,’’ Mr Taylor said.

Ms Heal met the charismatic ex-con when she was researching hepatitis C rates in prison.

The pair spoke over the phone but met for the first time outside the High Court at Auckland two days ago.

Ms Heal said it was not just herself but her whole family ‘‘welcoming him with open arms’’.

‘‘Because Arthur has put his body and life on the line for human rights for so long, he’s paid it forward, and so I’m probably picking up the tab for that paying it forward.’’

Mr Taylor said he was ‘‘very grateful’’ for the support.

He had almost been resigned to never being paroled.

Now, he was looking forward to a new chapter of his life away from the monotony of life behind bars.

‘‘I don’t really know any criminals in Dunedin. I can wind down in a quiet, peaceful environment without any pressure,’’ he said.

The relaxation would be brief as he had four ongoing court cases against the authorities awaiting hearing, he said.

However, the most immediate concern was the night’s meal. When Mr Taylor’s parole was approved, Ms Heal said she bought a leg of lamb, which had been in the freezer until yesterday.

Mr Taylor, who had not had a roast for more than a decade, admitted it had been on his mind.

‘‘I’ve been dreaming about it,’’ he said.


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