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Repeat prison escaper Arthur William Taylor was back in court today, arguing a trial judge didn't properly allow him to argue he wasn't in lawful custody during a 2005 escape.

Taylor, 51, was jailed in the High Court for four years in December 2006 with a minimum non-parole period of two years for escaping from custody as he was taken from Rimutaka Prison to a family group conference in central Wellington in March 2005.

He was also given a concurrent term of one year over the kidnapping of his prison guard escort and would serve the sentences when he finished an eight-year jail term for drug and firearm offences.

Taylor escaped with the assistance of former fellow inmate Manu Royal, who was carrying an air pistol, but he fell through the ceiling of a nearby building while trying to escape and landed in a woman's toilet, injuring a woman in the toilet. He was arrested in a car park about an hour later.

Taylor, who represented himself in his appeal of his conviction and sentence before three judges at the Court of Appeal in Auckland today, said the High Court judge had wrongly cut short his attempt to argue he had not been in lawful custody when he escaped.

He said this was because the superintendent of the prison who purported to authorise the outing did not have the requisite authority.

Taylor said the issue of lawful custody was part of the charge and the Crown therefore had to prove it beyond reasonable doubt.

However, he agreed today that this did not mean he automatically was entitled to escape as the actions had to be reasonable, and the fact there was an airgun presented by fellow inmate Manu Royal in the escape would weigh against him with this point.

Taylor also argued he should not have faced both an aggravated wounding and a kidnap charge as he believed they related to the same act.

Taylor said his sentence was excessive compared to a lesser one Royal received as he felt Royal was the main offender and that he knew nothing about the airgun.

Crown prosecutor Kieren Raftery said the jury had been given the right to decide on the issue of lawful custody.

Mr Raftery also said the acts relating to the aggravated wounding and kidnap charges were different, and that the sentence was reasonable given Taylor's past record.

He said it was fair to assume Taylor was the ringleader and not just a follower given the 81 mobile phone calls made the morning of the escape.

"In the Crown's view, Mr Taylor is the principal villain and Mr Royal was his henchman," Mr Raftery said.

Justices Robert Chambers, Graham Panckhurst and John Fogarty reserved their decision.

Taylor has spent 32 of the last 35 years in jail. At his sentencing last year the court was told Taylor had more than 130 convictions and had escaped on six previous occasions, twice from prison and four times from lawful custody.

His escapes include fleeing with three of the country's most dangerous prisoners 10 years ago from the maximum security Auckland Prison at Paremoremo.

Their escape led to one of the biggest manhunts the country had seen for many years. They were eventually caught 10 days on the run without a shot being fired near the small Coromandel Peninsula township of Tairua.

One of Taylor's fellow escapers in 1998 was convicted murderer Graeme Burton, who said he would go down in a hail of bullets. Burton last year killed Wainuiomata man Karl Kuchenbecker in the hills above Lower Hutt after breaching parole.

- NZPA