Teen gets seven more years for prison riot

A young inmate involved in a riot which has closed Hawke's Bay Prison's Youth Unit for more than 11 months has had his sentence extended to more than 13 years, at the age of just 18.

Mose Ofisa Vaipapa, who was 17 and serving six-and-a-half years at the time of the attack, was sentenced to a further seven years when he appeared before Judge Phillip Connell in Napier District Court yesterday.

Vaipapa had in March pleaded guilty to charges of wounding one officer with intent to cause grievous bodily harm and intentionally injuring another related to the attacks, and arson and intentional damage relating to the mayhem that followed.

In March, co-offender Matthew Ngatai Te Moananui, also aged 17 at the time of the attack in which he threw boiling water over one officer, was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years, having also pleaded guilty.

The Corrections Department confirmed last night that the unit is still not back in use, because of damage caused by the pair. No decisions are understood to have been made on when it will reopen.

The attack happened in the unit's day room about 11.30am on June 21 last year and, according to a police summary, was planned by the pair.

Te Moananui had been angered by cell searches, which had taken place earlier in the morning.

It was decided Te Moananui would throw hot water into an officer's face and Vaipapa would attack him with a steel teapot and knock him unconscious, with the aim of taking hostages and negotiating benefits.

Vaipapa approached the secure control room asking for assistance from staff and, after one had obliged, Te Moananui unloaded a container of hot water into the officer's face, and then struck the officer on the head and face with a teapot.

Vaipapa grabbed another teapot and joined the assault, with such force that the handle broke off and he continued the attack with his fists.

As the officer was joined by a colleague in an attempt to restrain Vaipapa, Te Moananui swung a steel table leg at the scalded officer with such venom that it broke the officer's arm.

As the second officer lay on the ground, Te Moananui belted him him in the back and shoulders with the weapon, and Vaipapa swung the jagged end of a table leg at the scalded officer, adding wounds and bruises to the existing injuries.

With the officers out of the room, the inmates then upturned tables and chairs, ripping legs free to smash items including a TV set, a washing machine, a toilet bowl and hand basin, and reinforced windows in the control room.

Vaipapa attempted to torch the control room by pushing burning items through a smashed window, and the pair set fire to a large plastic rubbish bin in the day room and set a larger fire in an exercise yard, risking the lives of themselves and other inmates who were unable to exit the wing, one of whom suffered an asthma attack caused by the acrid smoke.

Te Moananui and Vaipapa also smashed lights and set off fire sprinklers, and barricaded entrances to stop staff reinforcements from entering, although entry was eventually gained and the pair restrained.

Both injured staff were rushed to hospital, one of them admitted for four days for treatment to the scalds and surgery on his broken arm, requiring a plate and screws. It was also discovered he had a cracked upper vertebrae, which caused breathing difficulties. The other officer was in hospital for a night.

Yesterday, defence counsel Richard Stone said Vaipapa was angered by having been denied permission to go to his stepfather's funeral, having worked hard to get an appropriate security classification before the trip was stopped as he was on his way to the van to leave.

Judge Connell said he could understand that as a reason, but it was not an excuse, and he was mystified by an attack on officers with whom Vaipapa had otherwise got on well, in an environment where staff took extra steps to help inmates towards rehabilitation.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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