High security and gang signs at bashing sentencing

File image. © Andrew Bardwell

Security in court was tight for the sentencing of five Neighbourhood Crips gang members for an exercise yard bashing in Christchurch Men’s Prison.

The victim of the bashing refused to make a complaint about the bashing on January 16 and declined medical treatment at the time.

Now he has refused to file a victim impact statement for the Christchurch District Court sentencing, and has indicated he does not want to meet his attackers at a restorative justice meeting.

One of the offenders appeared by video-link from the Otago Correctional Facility and the four in court had their wrists shackled to their belts. They still managed to give what appeared to be gang signs and shake hands with difficulty.

Six prison officers stood behind the four prisoners in the dock, and three Court Security Officers stood around the spectators in the public gallery.

Defence counsel Kerry Cook said the guilty pleas had been a significant saving for the courts, because of the obvious extra security needed for a sentencing. That cost would have been multiplied many times over if there had been a trial.

He said his client, Adam Robert Gempton, had become involved in the prison incident after becoming associated with the Neighbourhood Crips gang. “He’s found some brotherhood within that.”

Gempton, 29, is serving life with a non-parole term of 10 years after a trial in 2010 for the fatal stabbing of Timothy Constable in a brawl outside a Bishopdale address.

Resham Toa Blake-Faatafa, 22, of Milburn in Otago, Joseph Regan Andy Epiha, 30, of Invercargill, Riapo Piripi Tipene, 21, also of Milburn, and Charles John Tawha, 24, of no fixed abode in Christchurch, had also pleaded guilty to the assault with intent to injure.

Judge David Saunders said that after the victim was punched and kneed by the group, one of them had commented that he had breached their rules. “I infer that referred to the rules relating to the Crips gang.” At an earlier hearing, the court was told that the victim also belonged to the gang.

The judge said belonging to a gang was not necessarily seen as an aggravating factor because young men sometimes got a sense of family when they belonged to their chosen gang. The issue was what the gang did.

Tipene had a shocking record of violence and was already serving a term for intentional wounding, said the judge, jailing him for an additional 16 months on his current term.

Tawha had also admitted receiving a stolen $30,000 car, breach of prison release conditions, and breach of bail. He was jailed for an additional 26 months.

Blake-Faatafa is now serving a sentence of eight years seven months. Judge Saunders added an extra 16 months.

Epiha had a history of violence but now had programmes available to him in prison. Fourteen months was added to his sentence.

Gempton had admitted the prison yard assault, and a stabbing at the prison a few days later. He had stabbed another prisoner in the neck, causing a cut, with a knife improvised from a bent nail and melted plastic.

Because he is serving life, no cumulative term can be added, but the term may affect when the Parole Board can consider his release. Judge Saunders jailed him for two years six months.

With shouting and gang signs to the group in the public seating, the Crips members were then bundled out of court.

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