29 Aug 2018

Security camera diverted during prison attack, court told

8:43 pm on 29 August 2018

The Corrections officer in charge of surveillance at the country's maximum security prison says a security camera recording an emergency incident was turned away.

Desmond Fa’afoi (left), Wiremu Paitea (middle) and Viju Devassy (right).

Desmond Fa’afoi (left), Wiremu Paitea (middle) and Viju Devassy (right). Photo: RNZ / Jessie Chiang

Shane Tuheke gave evidence at the High Court in Auckland today where three of his colleagues are on trial in relation to an attack on a prisoner in Paremoremo last May.

Viju Devassy is accused of attempting to pervert the course of justice by moving a camera away from the scene where prisoner Mitai Angell lay on his stomach.

The court heard Mr Devassy's colleague, officer Desmond Fa'afoi, had been attacked repeatedly in the head and neck by Angell and another prisoner. Mr Fa'afoi was bleeding heavily.

Once the prisoner was restrained Mr Fa'afoi has been accused of kicking Angell in the head three times as he lay on the ground.

Another officer, Wiremu Paikea, is accused of causing grievous bodily harm by putting the prisoner in a risky leg-lock, breaking his leg and ankle.

Corrections officer Shane Tuheke monitors surveillance cameras in the control room - a room referred to as the eyes and ears of the prison at Paremoremo.

He told the court that up to 40 alarms were activated by his colleagues during the incident - something that had never happened on his watch before.

Mr Tuheke said he called for back-up twice, but during the incident the camera monitoring the violence was turned towards the floor. He turned it back.

Viju Devassy's interview with Detective Sergeant Steve Brewer was played to the High Court in Auckland today.

Steve Brewer: "A Corrections officer, who we believe is Des Fa'afoi, kicking Angell in the head. What can you tell me about that?"

Viju Devassy: "I don't remember. I can't remember anything ... Still I remember Des' face, that is the only thing that comes to my mind, still ... Even when I sleep."

Mr Devassy said he tried to take Mr Fa'afoi away from the incident and continued checking on his condition.

Steve Brewer: "I wonder whether your actions to get him away from that area was because of what he was doing - the kicks?"

Viju Devassy: "I don't know, I don't know, not at all. All I ... The reason why I took him out of there is because he was bleeding hard-out."

Mr Devassy confirmed to the detective sergeant that he had gone into the control room and diverted a camera but said that was because he was told there was a third prisoner involved in the incident and he was trying to find him.

The senior detective did not buy it.

Steve Brewer: "I put it to you that after seven minutes of you being involved upstairs and downstairs, you would know that there is a third inmate, around the corner."

Viju Devassy: "I didn't, to be honest, I didn't."

Mr Devassy was himself the victim of an attack by prisoners, less than eight months before the attack on Mr Fa'afoi. He said he was conscious of that experience during the incident.

Viju Devassy: "It's all panic and rush at the time. To be honest ... what I'm saying right now ... For me, just seeing Des, that was enough because it was bringing back hole heaps of flashbacks for me. It was like I was just seeing myself in Des."

The trial, before Justice Gordon and a jury has been set down for three weeks.