Prison guards acquitted of assaulting prisoner

6:40 pm on 7 September 2018

There were gasps, rounds of applause and cheering from the public gallery as three Corrections officers were cleared of charges relating on an attack on a prisoner.

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Desmond Fa'afoi (left), Wiremu Paikea (centre), Viju Devassy (right). Photo: RNZ / Jessie Chiang

Desmond Fa'afoi, Wiremu Paikea and Viju Devassy walked from the High Court in Auckland today after being acquitted.

The three guards from Paremoremo prison in Auckland faced a two week trial at the High Court in Auckland, where the jurors returned their unanimous verdicts this afternoon.

Supporters sitting in the public gallery clapped and cheered as the jury returned verdicts of not guilty. The gallery also clapped as the jurors left the courtroom after being thanked by Justice Gordon.

Mr Fa'afoi was cleared of a charge of injuring with intent by kicking the prisoner in the head as he lay on the ground.

His colleague Wiremu Paikea was acquitted for causing grievous bodily harm when he put the prisoner in a figure four leg-lock, breaking the inmate's leg and dislocating his ankle

Mr Devassy was found not guilty of attempting to pervert the course of justice by turning a camera away from the scene.

The incident in May last year happened as prisoners were returning from the recreation room. The prisoners were being patted down when prisoner Trent Wellington attacked Mr Fa'afoi.

Prisoner Mitai Angell and Samuel Junior Hutchins joined in. They repeatedly stabbed Mr Fa'afoi about the head and neck with make-shift weapons known as shanks.

Back-up arrived and the prisoners were restrained, but the Corrections officers were accused of using excessive force.

Mr Fa'afoi's lawyer, Todd Simmonds, said his client had no recollection of the kicks and had no intent to harm the prisoner.

Mr Paikea's lawyer, Aaron Perkins QC, said his client was slipping around in the blood at the scene and was trying to restrain a prisoner who would not stop resisting.

Paul Borich QC, representing Mr Devassy, said his client had been attacked by prisoners only eight months before the incident.

He said while he moved a camera away, it was only to search for a third prisoner involved in the attack.

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