James Ihaka

James Ihaka is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Prison officer took drugs to inmates, court told

Kokiri Ronaki. Photo / Christine Cornege
Kokiri Ronaki. Photo / Christine Cornege

Inmates at a Waikato jail used coded phone calls to order drugs from outside sources and a prison officer couriered the contraband to them, a court heard yesterday.

But Corrections staff monitoring their conversations were on to their game and arrested one of their own, who was caught with methamphetamine, cannabis and drug utensils he was allegedly smuggling inside.

Kokiri Kihirini Junior Ronaki appeared at the Hamilton District Court yesterday nearly a year after Corrections officers and police arrested him carrying drugs and drug utensils as he started his early morning shift at Waikeria Prison about 15km south of Te Awamutu.

The 43-year-old father of three is facing charges of possession of methamphetamine for supply, possession of cannabis for sale and possession of a glass pipe.

Through lawyer Paul Mabey he said he would defend the charges.

The court heard how a number of inmates made phone calls from Waikeria Prison between December 2010 and July last year to outside sources using a coded language to arrange the procurement and delivery of drugs.

Crown prosecutor Philip Clayton said one inmate was told he could have what is believed to be drugs "picked up for you and brought straight to you".

The court heard how when Ronaki arrived at work on July 13 last year, he was told he was going to be searched by Corrections staff and police.

Despite his protests and attempts to leave, they found a sunglasses bag with a drawstring inside a thermos flask containing about 3.4 grams of cannabis wrapped in clingfilm, and other drugs and paraphernalia including methamphetamine. Prison officer Paul Gregg, who gave evidence yesterday, said Ronaki looked at him directly before he was processed by the police.

"He looked at me directly like this and uttered the words 'I'm in the s**t'."

Mr Clayton believed there was no issue that Ronaki was carrying methamphetamine at the time of his arrest.

But he said the onus was on the Crown to prove that he intended to supply methamphetamine and sell the cannabis to inmates. A Corrections search of a number of cells in the Totara Unit where Ronaki worked revealed two letters, both containing Ronaki's landline and mobile phone numbers.

Mr Mabey said to the jury that the case "may appear clear-cut".

"He wasn't in possession of these drugs to distribute to sell or supply to prisoners," he said.

"The question is whether or not those drugs were intended to go to some inmate. The question here is why did he have them?"

The trial before Judge Glen Marshall is set to end tomorrow with nine witnesses to be called.

- NZ Herald

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