A man has been sentenced to three years and nine months' imprisonment for attacking notorious double-killer Graeme Burton at the prison that houses the country's most dangerous criminals.

Te Ariki Poulgrain was among a group of three prisoners who assaulted Burton in Auckland Prison at Paremoremo on May 11 last year, the court heard.

Burton was left in a life-threatening condition and now suffers from severely diminished vision.

Justice Geoffrey Venning said Poulgrain "deliberately positioned" himself beside Burton to force him closer to another inmate, Tama Tapine, who launched the attack by punching the killer with a right-hook to the face.

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Graeme Burton in court in a wheelchair after being shot by police during his 2007 arrest. Photo / File
Graeme Burton in court in a wheelchair after being shot by police during his 2007 arrest. Photo / File

Burton was vulnerable to the "out of the blue" attack, Justice Venning said.

"He [Burton] has a significant and serious criminal history.

"He is also disabled to the extent he has a prosthetic leg.

"It is easier to knock him to the ground because of his prosthetic leg."

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Prone on the ground and curled in a foetal position, Burton tried to use his hands to shield his face, court documents read.

It was important to note the attack continued while he was "defenceless on the ground" unable to get up, Justice Venning said.

Poulgrain stabbed Burton at least seven or eight times during the assault, he said.

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Corrections officers, who had become aware of the violence, waited for backup before entering the landing.

During today's sentencing at the Auckland High Court, Poulgrain's defence lawyer Maria Pecotic said it was difficult to say who caused what injuries.

But it was clear Poulgrain was not the main protagonist, Pecotic said.

"He was roped into it."

He was susceptible to persuasion because of his youth and ADHD, she said.

It was accepted Poulgrain did not cause the most significant injury to Burton's eye, the court heard.

Pecotic also spoke of good rehabilitation prospects in the community as Poulgrain had several supporters, including one who was prepared to offer him a job.

He had taken the time to offer Justice Venning a hand-written letter showing insight into the factors influencing his offending, the court heard.

"For a young man with the difficulties that he has, that is commendable," Pecotic said.

Justice Venning said for "serious violence" of this kind, the need to hold the person responsible accountable and deter others in the prison environment were relevant considerations.

"Given your conviction for wounding with intent to injure you are now subject to the three strikes law."

Paremoremo Prison in Albany, New Zealand's only maximum-security facility. Photo / Doug Sherring
Paremoremo Prison in Albany, New Zealand's only maximum-security facility. Photo / Doug Sherring

A probation officer noted that Poulgrain described the attack as regrettable and a sudden thing, he said.

"There appeared to be a lack of victim empathy."

Justice Venning took into account Poulgrain's youth, disadvantaged background and guilty plea before sentencing him to three years and nine months' imprisonment.

Senior Crips gang member Siuaki Lisiate earlier pleaded guilty to stabbing Burton more than 40 times.

When spoken to by police, Lisiate said he directed two other maximum-security prisoners to take part in the assault.

Tapine will be sentenced tomorrow, while Lisiate will be sentenced in December.

Meanwhile, Burton is serving a life sentence for the murder of Karl Kuchenbecker.

In 2007, Burton gunned down the father-of-two, shot two other men and wounded a handful of others in Wainuiomata and Wellington - the tragic climax to six months of drug-fuelled offending.

At the time Burton was on parole, having served time for the murder of Paul Anderson in 1992.

Fuelled by a cocktail of illicit drugs and alcohol, Burton had killed Anderson after being denied entry to a Wellington nightclub.