What began as a West Auckland cop's attempt to calm tension escalated into habitual smuggling of contraband to prisoners.

On 77 occasions over a six-month period, Lotovale Perese passed on items including tattoo ink, cigarettes, lighters and USB sticks to 16 prisoners. At the time he worked as a prisoner escort at the Waitakere District Court.

Yesterday the 42-year-old stood in the same court's dock and was sentenced to 150 hours' community work on 18 charges, including one of offering to supply cannabis.

His 13-year police career is over after he resigned from a job in which he was well respected, the court heard.


Defence lawyer Richard Earwaker said the offending began when Perese allowed tobacco into cells, in defiance of anti-smoking edicts.

This calmed prisoners down, but the smuggling grew out of control and Perese had no idea why. Those who knew him were also baffled and his family suggested it could be down to his "generous personality'', Mr Earwaker said.

"He wasn't paid for it. It was just something he appeared to be doing to keep the peace in the cells.''

A remorseful Perese was now undertaking counselling.

Both Mr Earwaker and Judge David Wilson, QC, described the offending as "inexplicable''.

The judge said jailing Perese was inappropriate and potentially unsafe, as he might be at the mercy of people he used to deal with.

"Those that say only one response to offending like this is called for have not heard this case,'' Judge Wilson told Perese.

"It's a sad day indeed to see you in the dock... You've conducted yourself in and around the court in a way which had earned the respect of everyone.''

After the hearing a smiling Perese was hugged and congratulated by many of the large contingent supporting him in court. Mr Earwaker told reporters Perese was relieved the ordeal was over.

He pleaded guilty to the 18 charges at a previous hearing. A further 17 charges were dropped.