4 Jul 2016

Prison officer was set up, lawyer says

7:43 pm on 4 July 2016

A former prison officer charged with taking bribes from convicted murderer and sex offender Phillip John Smith was set up, his lawyer says.

Robert Mark Sikora is on trial at the Auckland District Court where he denies charges of bribery.

In his opening address to the jury, Crown prosecutor David Johnstone said Mr Sikora began work as a catering and laundry instructor inside Paremoremo Prison, before becoming a prison officer.

He met Smith in 2011.

Phillip John Smith

Phillip John Smith Photo: RNZ

Smith is serving a life sentence for murdering the father of a boy he had sexually assaulted, for kidnapping, and other charges.

He's also been convicted of dishonesty charges while inside prison.

Mr Johnstone described Smith as a corruptive influence and said it was unfortunate Mr Sikora met him.

The Crown's case is that Mr Sikora agreed to have items sent to his home address and his post office box on behalf of Smith.

That included shampoo and conditioner which Smith referred to as his hair kit.

It also included items from Trade Me which Mr Johnstone referred to as "magic kits". He said Mr Sikora was paid to smuggle those items into prison for Smith.

He's also alleged to have smuggled in a document for Smith to sign.

Mr Johnstone said Smith used Mr Sikora's email account to send instructions to his sister from inside prison. In the email, he asked his sister to make a payment of $1400. The Crown said that payment was for Mr Sikora.

In another exchange, this time on Skype, Mr Johnstone said Smith gave his sister instructions to put the money in an envelope addressed to "Mr Smudge". Mr Johnstone said that was the name of Mr Sikora's cat which had died.

Smith is due to give evidence by audio visual link (AVL) tomorrow.

The jurors also heard a short opening from Mr Sikora's lawyer Paul Dacre QC who said his client had been set up by Smith.

He said his client was doing his job in a difficult situation but never took bribes or contraband into prison and had done nothing wrong.

Mr Dacre told the jurors to ask themselves what Smith was capable of and what he had done in the past.

There was only one victim in the case and that was his client, he said.

Outside the Auckland District Court on Albert Street.

Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

The court also heard evidence from the prison's director Tom Sherlock.

Mr Sherlock took the jurors through Mr Smith's prison file.

He confirmed he originally declined an application from Smith for a toupee.

But he later revisited that decision when the ombudsman got involved.

Mr Sherlock confirmed that it was the only time he had ever seen an application for a toupee but it was to assist in his reintegration into society.

Mr Sherlock confirmed under cross-examination that Smith sought an outcome to suit his needs.

Smith is awaiting trial on charges of escaping from custody and passport offences after flying to South America while on temporary release in November 2014.