Three Corrections officers are on trial for assaulting an inmate at an Auckland prison, with one accused of turning away a camera recording the incident.

Desmond Faafoi, Wiremu Paikea, Viju Devassy were all working at Auckland Prison, Paremoremo, on May 20 last year when inmates attacked Corrections staff.

Faafoi's head was stabbed several times with a shank during the incident in Bravo block.

As a result of the attack, police charged three prisoners, Samuel Hutchins, Trent Wellington and Mitai Angell, but also investigated the force used by the guards in retaliation.

Advertisement

Faafoi was then charged with assault with intent to injure and Paikea charged with causing grievous bodily harm with reckless disregard. Both charges were for the alleged assault on Angell.

Devassy is accused of wilfully attempting to pervert the course of justice.

His charge was laid after he allegedly turned a camera away from the incident.

The trio first appeared in court last June and deny the allegations, while the three prisoners have all pleaded guilty to wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm and aggravated assault and will be sentenced in the Auckland District Court later this year.

Paremoremo Prison near Albany, Auckland. Photo / Doug Sherring
Paremoremo Prison near Albany, Auckland. Photo / Doug Sherring

During his opening address today, Crown prosecutor David Wiseman told the court the case wasn't about the prisoners, who have already been convicted, but rather the response of the Corrections officers.

He said Hutchins, Wellington and Angell were in the prison's recreation wing before they were to return to their cells on an upper landing at about 2.30pm.

But before doing so the prisoners were to be processed and patted down by the guards.

Wellington was first, before Hutchins and Angell followed.

Advertisement

During this Wellington began his assault and attacked Faafoi with his hidden weapon.

"Hutchins and Angell followed Wellington's cue," Wiseman said.

Faafoi was hit several times across the head with a shank, wielded by Hutchins, causing severe lacerations.

Other Corrections officers, including Devassy, came to assist before the prisoners were restrained.

"Once Angell had been taken to the ground he was lying on his side surrounded by Corrections officers," Wiseman said.

It was then, the Crown alleges, Faafoi kicked Angell in the head three times.

Devassy's body camera filmed Faafoi's kicks, Wiseman told the court.

Voices during the recording can be heard saying: "Des[mond], enough, enough, enough, enough" and "camera, camera".

Wiseman said it was not clear who was said the phrases.

When Devassy later gave a statement to police he said he never saw Corrections officers using "unapproved tactics", the court heard.

Prison officers Desmond Faafoi, Viju Devassy and Wiremu Paikea leaving court after an earlier appearance. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Prison officers Desmond Faafoi, Viju Devassy and Wiremu Paikea leaving court after an earlier appearance. Photo / Jason Oxenham

During the incident, Wiseman said, Paikea was also kneeling down over the back of Angell for about five minutes.

However, what exactly happens is unclear after Devassy allegedly diverted a CCTV camera away from the incident.

When the camera refocuses on Angell his ankle can be seen bent at a 90-degree angle.

"Angell suffered a compound dislocation of his right ankle," Wiseman said.

Wiseman said Devassy had wilfully redirected the camera, but in explanation, Devassy claimed he changed the camera angle to film another prisoner.

Devassy's lawyer, Paul Borich QC, said the guard had already witnessed the violence of a inmate attack during a October 2016 incident.

It was a significant event for Devassy, who along with five other Corrections officers were attacked by a group of prisoners, Borich said.

"That's what came into my mind, it's all panic and rush at that time," Devassy later told Detective Sergeant Steven Brewer, the police officer in charge of the case.

"Just seeing Des, that was enough cause it - sort of bring back whole heaps of flashbacks for me," Devassy said.

"I can't explain the feeling actually ... After seeing this, after seeing that much blood."

Borich said Devassy wasn't trying to pervert the course of justice but rather "try and preserve it" and "locate other rogue inmates" to prevent further injury to his colleagues.

Aaron Perkins QC, Paikea's defence counsel, said his client was grappling with Angell's legs and accepts the compound fracture occurred while he was wrestling with the prisoner.

However, Perkins said Paikea rejects any criminal intent or reckless disregard for the safety of Angell.

"[Paikea] was simply doing his job in very difficult circumstances to the best of his ability," Perkins said during his opening statement.

After the charges were laid against the three officers, Auckland Prison director Andy Langley said the trio were suspended.

"I reported it to police and made changes to the management of the wing where the incident took place," he said.

Langley said a Corrections inspectorate report was also ordered alongside a full operational review.

The trial, which began today before a jury and Justice Christine Gordon in the High Court at Auckland, is expected to last two to three weeks.