26 Sep 2018

Prisoner faces sentence without end after third strike offence

3:17 pm on 26 September 2018

Stead Nuku went into prison with a sentence of two years and three months for burglary and breaching release conditions.

But now, four years later, the 26-year-old faces a sentence without end - he has committed his third strike offence following a string of violent attacks on prison officers and fellow inmates.

Inside Paremoremo Prison

Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Nuku's father was a gang member and he followed in his father's footsteps.

His childhood was violent and he left school early. Now he already has a criminal record that includes 68 convictions.

Handcuffed to a prison officer, Nuku stood in the dock at the High Court in Auckland today where Justice Downs sentenced him to preventive detention and the maximum term for injuring with intent to injure - seven years in prison.

The sentence means Nuku will only be eligible for parole when he has proved he is no longer a threat to the community.

But it is while he has been inside prison that Nuku has committed his worst offending.

Justice Downs said it was at the country's maximum security prison, Paremoremo, that Nuku committed his first strike offence in 2015. He and another prisoner attacked an inmate in an exercise yard.

"You had ordered your co-offender to break the victim's arm. When he failed, you intervened. As the victim was on the ground you kicked him. You then wrenched his arm in an arm-lock, causing it to break."

Nuku tried unsuccessfully to break the prisoner's legs and other arm. For that attack he was sentenced to five years and nine months in prison.

The following year Nuku committed his second strike offence.

"You and other prisoners acted in concert to assault prison officers with sharpened implements. The offending was premeditated. Some of the officers suffered significant injuries."

The charges added a further three years and 10 months on to Nuku's sentence.

Just over a year later, Nuku hid a shank - a sharpened make-shift weapon - under a piece of cloth and approached another prisoner from behind.

"You used this to strike the victim to the head. You attempted to do so again, several times. A fight ensued. Another prisoner joined in."

The attack only ended after prison officers broke it up. Nuku later told authorities the victim had claimed he had stolen his CD player.

Less than a month later, Nuku - again armed with a shank - approached another prisoner from behind.

"You stabbed the victim with it repeatedly. While you did so, another prisoner punched and kicked the victim. You stabbed the victim not fewer than 12 times. You inflicted seven wounds to his back; four to his arm; and one behind his ear. You stopped only when prison officers began to lock-down prisoners."

This time the fight was over stolen biscuits. The victim was left with wounds to his back and head.

Crown prosecutor Kirsten Lummis said the attacks were captured on security cameras and despite the prisoners being unwilling to give evidence, the case against Nuku was strong.

Nuku's lawyer Anoushka Bloem said her client understood the previous strike warnings but they had clearly had no effect.

However, she said Nuku could be rehabilitated and had shown a willingness to take part in anti-violence counselling inside prison.

"That is somewhat of a contradiction, given that he is someone that really is required to do these particular programmes, due to his offending, due to the longstanding issues that he does have," she said.

"But he is, up until now, prevented really from engaging from a number of courses and rehabilitative options that would assist him."

She said there was also a paradox in that preventive detention was designed to protect the public, but Nuku posed a bigger threat to prisoners and guards inside prisons.

Justice Downs said he had reports from a psychiatrist and psychologist who found Nuku posed a high risk of re-offending. Psychologist Michelle Coutinho found Nuku was carefree about staying in prison.

"You told Ms Coutinho you liked committing assaults in prison as you felt you had achieved something by hurting a rival gang member. You said in prison, it is a case of 'either him or me'."

Nuku also idolised lifers - prisoners serving life-sentences - and had wanted to be one since aged 18.

"You admired prisoners who frightened other prisoners and guards. You said when you commit an offence of violence, you intend to cause the victim 'maximum damage'."

But Justice Downs said Nuku also wanted to get out of prison for the sake of his mother.

In sentencing, Justice Downs said Nuku posed a risk to people, whether he was inside prison or on the outside.

"That you are prepared to repeatedly stab someone because they took your biscuits does not bode well for your interactions with others in the outside world, particularly given the pressures and pitfalls of modern life."

He acknowledged prison could be an incubator for violence and that prison was what Nuku wanted, but Nuku posed a high risk to the community and had little inclination to change.

"Preventive detention is the only sentence that may persuade you to take responsibility for your actions, and in turn encourage reform... In a meaningful sense, your future will be in your hands. Preventive detention may help you come to appreciate violence is not a sustainable way of life, and destructive only, both for your victims and you."

Nuku had a grin on his face during most of the sentencing hearing.