29 Aug 2014

Spring Hill prison rioters sentenced

4:29 pm on 29 August 2014

Two imates who between them attacked a Waikato prison guard with a metal pole, and used chairs to smash windows have each been sentenced to at least two years in prison.

During a six-and-a-half-hour rampage at Spring Hill Prison near Meremere on 1 June last year, cell blocks were damaged and fires lit. Repairs to the prison including demolishing damaged property and moving prisoners around as a result cost about $4 million.

Some of the 23 prisoners who attacked guards and started fires were sentenced at the Auckland District Court today.

Judge Chris Field said the costs came from demolishing part of the prison, repairing it, and moving prisoners to different facilities in the meantime.

He said the riot was probably caused by inmates drinking quite strong bootleg alcohol.

"A riot, triggered possibly by homebrew concocted from fruit, Marmite and bread, and it seems that this led to some boisorous behaviour that escalated to the point where quite a number of you became involved and the facility was damaged to the extent of $4 million or thereabouts."

Smoke rising from the direction of Spring Hill prison.

Smoke rises from the direction of Spring Hill Prison. Photo: RNZ

One inmate, Samuel Vakapuna, pleaded guilty to arson, and has been sentenced to five years.

Judge Field said he could have put the lives of prisoners, officers, and firefighters at risk.

"You carried an object that was fully engulfed in flames and placed it onto the floor. You left the room and returned later with a plastic chair, which you placed on top of the fire. Essentially, you built something of a bonfire. The room was soon engulfed in flames and black smoke."

Benjamin Tangiia was sentenced to two years for damaging the prison using chairs and wood.

Jim Kaitamaki was given a term of two years and seven months for causing damage and assaulting a prison officer.

In total, eight men have now been sentenced and 15 are still in the court system.

A police road block near Spring Hill Prison.

A police road block near Spring Hill Prison in June 2013. Photo: RNZ

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