An inmate who started a group attack on notorious killer Graeme Burton with a roundhouse punch has been sentenced to a year and three months' jail.

Tama Tapine, 27, was one of three prisoners who viciously attacked Burton at Paremoremo Prison on May 11 last year.

Burton was severely injured in the attack and now suffers from diminished vision.

At a trial in October, Tapine pleaded guilty to assault with intent to injure, which has a maximum sentence of three years' jail. He was sentenced in the Auckland High Court this morning.

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The court heard that Tapine had been interacting with the two other attackers, Te Ariki Poulgrain and Siuaki Lisiate, immediately before the assault in Paremoremo's maximum security unit.

They had been in and out of each other's cells and gathering in the corridor together.

Tapine stood to one side of the corridor, waiting for Burton. Poulgrain walked alongside Burton to make sure he would pass close to Tapine.

Tapine then struck Burton with a roundhouse punch, which was "obviously unprovoked" and took Burton by surprise, Justice Geoffrey Venning said.

Burton fell to the ground, handicapped by his prosthetic leg, and Tapine then struck him at least twice more. The other two attackers use shanks to stab Burton.

Justice Venning said he accepted that Tapine did not take part in the worst part of the attack on Burton, and was not aware that his two associates would use shanks in the attack.

But he said that Tapine initiated the attack by punching Burton and that he struck the victim in the head.

"The punch you threw was a roundhouse punch with considerable force behind it," Justice Venning said.

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The judge rejected the argument from Tapine's defence lawyer that it was not a premeditated attack and that he had only been told to punch Burton 10 seconds before the assault took place.

"I consider your involvement to be more considered and premeditated than you suggest," he said.

Tapine had not shown genuine remorse after the assault.

Justice Venning said he took into account Tapine's personal circumstances in his sentencing.

Tapine was raised in Christchurch, the youngest of six children. It was an unhappy upbringing and his mother was jailed for drug dealing when he was young, the court heard.

He was passed around foster homes, left school with few qualifications, and became involved in gangs, in particular the Crips. He was homeless when he was arrested on the charges which led to him being locked up in Paremoremo.

Tapine had gained certificates in forklift driving and other skills, which showed he could "engage if given the opportunity", Justice Venning said.

Taking into account Tapine's early guilty plea and personal circumstances, Justice Venning sentenced him to one year and three months' imprisonment.

Tapine was already serving a sentence of three years for burglary and other offences, and the new sentence would be served on top of that sentence.

Dressed in grey prison clothes, Tapine stared down while in the dock but looked the judge directly in the eye while being sentenced.

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

Yesterday, Te Ariki Poulgrain was sentenced to three years and nine months' imprisonment for his part in the assault.

Justice Venning said Poulgrain "deliberately positioned" himself beside Burton to force him closer to Tapine, who launched the attack.

Poulgrain then stabbed Burton at least seven times, Justice Venning said.

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

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

When spoken to by police, Lisiate said he directed the two others to take part in the assault.

He 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.