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Prison guard will never return to work after inmate attack

By Edward Gay

File photo / NZ Herald
File photo / NZ Herald

A prison guard whose jaw was broken in two places by a violent inmate has had corrective surgery for almost two years and will never return to work.

Paka Junior Leota, 30, was convicted of wounding the guard with intent to injure in the Auckland District Court this month following a jury trial.

He was to be sentenced this morning at the Auckland District Court but Crown prosecutor Mike Walker asked that a sentence of preventive detention be looked at.

Only the High Court can impose such a sentence which would mean Leota serves an indefinite prison sentence and be freed only once he can prove he has been rehabilitated.

Judge Roy Wade asked Mr Walker if the prison officer was fit to go back to work.

"He hasn't returned to his job as a prison officer and he never will. He had thought about it He has gone quite cold about going back into that environment."

The officer has undergone corrective surgery on his jaw.

Leota's trial heard the prisoner had just been strip-searched at Mt Eden prison and was on his way to court in April 2011 when he lashed out at the prison officer, punching him in the face.

Leota's defence had been that he had never intended to hurt the guard.

Judge Wade described that as "absurd".

"The prison officer is a man with deep religious convictions and entered the prison service with the best intentions. He is suffering long-term consequences as a result of your attack on him."

As well as the charge against the prison officer, Leota will also to be sentenced for causing grievous bodily harm.

Leota and another man had been working as a minder for a prostitute in August 2010. Leota approached his colleague and without provocation hit him in the face repeatedly and kicked him before stabbing him in the side of the face with a screwdriver or knife.

The victim had to have surgery and was hospitalised for four days.

Mr Walker said Leota and the community would benefit from the psychiatric reports required by the court to consider preventive detention.

"Leota's adult life is littered with violent offending. It is clear that with Mr Leota, custodial sentences don't work with him and he continues to offend inside and outside of prison.''

Leota's lawyer Nigel Cooke said all he could say for his client was that some of his previous charges refer to the same victim and she was in court to show her support.

Leota attributed his violent record to his long history of drug addiction.

Judge Wade agreed to send the case to the High Court and cited Leota's lengthy criminal record.

"At the age of 30 you have now accumulated no fewer than 17 offences of violence - many of them serious violence."

Four of those are for aggravated robbery, Leota also has convictions for kidnapping and 37 others.

"I believe you do pose a serious risk to the public and to prison officers while in custody because even when under lock and key you pose a risk of violence."

Judge Wade said if it were up to him the sentence would be "a very long one".

Mr Cooke opposed APNZ's application to photograph Leota in court on the grounds that people would be able to recognise him once he was released from prison.

Judge Wade allowed the photos.

"I think, quite frankly, people who don't know him should have the ability to do that," the judge said.

- APNZ

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