Child killer Benny Haerewa faces the possibility of never getting out of jail again amid a renewed Crown prosecution bid for preventive detention sentence for his latest crime.

The Crown had sought the indefinite sentence last October when Haerewa answered charges relating to five years of abuse of a new partner and her children, after his release from a 12-year sentence for manslaughter in the killing of Hawke's Bay boy James Whakaruru in 1999.

In the High Court in Auckland, Justice Grant Powell rejected a Crown application for the open-ended sentence of preventive detention, which is reserved mainly for repeat violent offenders at high risk of reoffending.

Haerewa's sentence of a further nine years' jail, with a minimum six years before he could apply for parole, was the subject of argument this week in the Court of Appeal.

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The three justices reserved their decision, and a judgment is expected later this year.

In the appeal Crown prosecutor Zannah Johnston highlighted Haerewa's previous record, including violence against James Whakaruru three years before the fatal attack, concerns at the time of his release, a breach of release conditions a month later, and the subsequent offending which included repeated beatings and threats.

His partner regularly bore the bruising and other signs of Haerewa's attacks, which came amid other violence and threats marked by smashing holes in the walls with a tomahawk, and carving out the word "child killer".

Once he plunged the weapon into a bed beside his partner as she lay in bed, and once after telling her she would lose a leg he beat her so much with a broomstick that she was unable to walk for two days.

He once punched the woman in the face while they were driving, because he disapproved of her talking with her child's basketball coach, and a child's birthday party was disrupted when Haerewa hurled a can of drink at the boy's head.

The prosecutor told the Appeal court that while the Hawke's Bay killing was more than 20 years ago it was part of the fear created in the latest incidents.

Court of Appeal panellist Justice Ailsa Duffy wondered what Haerewa might have done to the woman if she had been provoking him, rather than trying to appease him, and said he could "explode" if he didn't get what he wanted.

But Haerewa's lawyer, Warren Pyke, argued Haerewa could "make progress" while in prison sufficient to be safely released at the end of the term.

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