Vest saved prison officer in attack by inmates

File image. © Andrew Bardwell

After a fracas with inmates at Christchurch Men’s Prison, a prison officer found a series of puncture wounds in the stab resistant body armour he was wearing.

A 20cm “shank” was found nearby, but it was not possible to say that any of the three men being sentenced in the Christchurch District Court this week had wielded it in the November 20 incident in the prison’s Rawhiti wing.

Six men were charged. Two are still to stand trial, one has been jailed for two years three months, and three more were sentenced by Judge Tom Gilbert after admitting various assault charges.

The group was originally charged with rioting, but those charges were dropped, leaving the assaults which have led to extended jail terms for the latest three to be sentenced.

The incident began when the group was being brought in from the exercise yard, about 3pm, when one refused to be searched.

Judge Gilbert said six men assaulted four prison officers in the melee that followed. A door was smashed to pieces and part of it was wielded like a bat to threaten officers.

Officers were punched repeatedly. Among their injuries were black eyes, swelling and bruising, a broken tooth, and abrasions.

Judge Gilbert told the men: “Prisons are a challenging environment. Officers ought to be able to go about their job without being attacked in the way you did.”

All the men are serving inmates, and all have gang links.

Dallas Edwards, 30, had eight months added to his current jail term on two charges of assault. He is serving six years nine months for aggravated robbery. Defence counsel Elizabeth Bulger handed the judge a letter from Edwards saying he had spent much of his teens and 20s in prison.

Judge Gilbert said: “The challenge for you is to find a way of not returning to prison once you are released.” His family background had been challenging, but he identified with his Maori culture and spoke some Te Reo. He was interested in exploring that further.

Aiden Hamilton, 25, had 10 months added to his current jail term for assault with intent to injure and possession of an offensive weapon – the door piece used as a bat. He is serving three years one month for burglary and breach of prison release conditions.

Judge Gilbert said Hamilton had a rough upbringing and had struggled with alcohol and drug addictions that had obviously fuelled his “relentless dishonesty” over the years.

Shane Monu Te Fotu Tonga, 26, was jailed for an additional 16 months for assault and assault with intent to injure charges. His actions had begun the incident. He is already serving four years one month for serious violence and is assessed as an extremely high risk offender.

He told the probation officer at his pre-sentence interview that he was not interested in any rehabilitation but his defence counsel Nicola Pointer said he may be changing his mind.

Judge Gilbert said his pre-sentence report made “relatively bleak reading”.

The three men appeared in court for sentencing with their wrists shackled to their belts. Crown prosecutor Pip Norman asked for all the men’s sentences to be increased because of their criminal histories, and for the new sentences to be imposed cumulatively – added to their current terms.

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