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Paremoremo prison guards on trial in Auckland

Desmond Fa'afoi (left), Wiremu Paikea (centre), Viju Devassy (right). - Photo: RNZ / Edward Gay

Three prison guards were on trial at the High Court in Auckland today for allegedly beating a prisoner and trying to obstruct a potential investigation into the assault.

The guards are from Auckland (Paremoremo) Prison: Desmond Fa'afoi has denied a charge of injuring with intent. His colleague Wiremu Paikea denies causing grievous bodily harm when he broke the prisoner's ankle and Viju Devassy denies attempting to pervert the course of justice.

The attack 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.

"Mr Fa'afoi fell to the ground. Angell and Hutchins then stood over him and struck his head numerous times with shanks which are improvised weapons made by prisoners which frequently feature a blade."

They repeatedly stabbed Mr Fa'afoi about the head and neck.

Back-up arrived and the prisoners were restrained.

"Now once prisoner Angell had been taken to the ground, he was lying, curled up on his side, surrounded by various Corrections officers."

But Mr Wiseman said despite Mr Angell being restrained, the Corrections officers used excessive force.

"At this point, the Crown alleges that the defendant, Mr Fa'afoi, kicked Mr Angell in the head three times."

Mr Wiseman said Corrections officer Mr Devassy was part of the group of officers who responded. He said Mr Devassy's body camera captured part of the attack.

"The Crown says that the footage shows the defendant, Mr Devassy, wearing blue gloves, trying to restrain Mr Fa'afoi's leg, in an attempt to stop him kicking Mr Angell."

The recording also captured a voice.

"Now, you'll be able to hear on the footage the words: 'Des, enough, enough, enough, enough, enough' in response to the kicks. As well as the words: 'Camera, camera'."

The footage also shows Corrections officer Wiremu Paikea crouching over Angell's legs.

"The defendant, Mr Paikea, was applying excessive force to prisoner Angell's legs and ankle. By the time that Mr Paikea leaves that position and another Corrections officer takes over, you can see that prisoner Angell's ankle is bent at a right angle, sideways."

Mr Wiseman said Mr Angell was left with a compound fracture to his ankle and leg.

Mr Devassy had been one of the officers responding to the attack.

"About a half minute later, Mr Devassy goes up the stairs, into the command room of Bravo Block and, the Crown says, interferes with the camera that is recording the incident involving prisoner Angell."

Mr Wiseman said Mr Devassy pointed the camera towards a bit of clothing on the floor and away from the prisoners.

He acknowledged the jurors may feel sympathy towards Mr Fa'afoi - saying he worked in a very difficult and at times scary environment. But he urged them to put any feelings of sympathy aside.

Mr Fa'afoi's lawyer, Todd Simmonds, said his client never intended to injure Angell.

"Multiple blows to his head, stab wounds, cuts, abrasions, bleeding and the effect that that had on him...and his ability to think straight, to appreciate what he was doing at the time - that's the defence. He may have lashed out, you'll see that on the footage, but did he have the intent?"

Mr Paikea's lawyer, Aaron Perkins QC, said his client was wrestling with Angell's legs.

"In a nutshell, Mr Paikea, my client, was simply doing his job, in very difficult circumstances, to the best of his ability."

Mr Devassy's lawyer Paul Borich QC said his client had been attacked by prisoners the year before.

He said the attack left an impression on his client and he read extracts from his client's interview with the police.

"It's all panic and rush at that time. To be honest ... for me just seeing Des, that was enough because it sort of...brought back whole heaps of flashbacks for me, like I was just seeing myself."

He said his client moved the camera to check to see if there were other prisoners around - it was not to pervert the course of justice.

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


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