A man who made headlines last year after stealing a police patrol car and guns has returned to court after assaulting a fellow prisoner.

Hori Irimana Gemmell appeared in the Invercargill District Court yesterday, where his defence counsel Jono Ross entered a guilty plea to a charge of common assault.

The police summary of facts said the incident happened on January 17, when Gemmell was remanded at Invercargill Men's Prison.

At the time of the incident, Gemmell and the victim were at North Yard Three of the prison, watching other inmates play touch rugby. They were two metres apart.

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Gemmell "walked up quickly" in the victim's direction.

"In an unprovoked attack, the defendant kicked the victim in the head using his right foot."

The Invercargill District Court heard the assault occurred while Gemmell was on remand at Invercargill Men's Prison. Photo / ODT
The Invercargill District Court heard the assault occurred while Gemmell was on remand at Invercargill Men's Prison. Photo / ODT

Gemmell grabbed the victim by his right shoulder with his left hand and threw several quick punches with his right hand to the victim's head, the court heard.

The victim then punched Gemmell once with his left hand in an attempt to stop the blows.

"The defendant grabbed the victim by the head and kicked him in the head and his knee eight times."

The prosecutor said the victim managed to push Gemmell away while they threw a few punches at each other.

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"When the defendant noticed corrections officers through the glass visor of the entry door, he quickly sat down on the bench."

As a result of the assault the victim received a couple of cuts inside his mouth.

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Gemmell caused a social media storm while on the run in August 2019.

A police post seeking information on the wanted man attracted more than 1300 comments, many mocking him for his name and appearance.

The image of Hori Gemmell issued when he was on the loose and wanted. Photo / NZ Police
The image of Hori Gemmell issued when he was on the loose and wanted. Photo / NZ Police

Gemmell was labelled "Gore's most wanted" by one and his appearance was widely mocked, with his facial hair labelled "bumfluff" and a "pre-beard".

"Finally someone with a beard worse than mine," said another commenter before a plea was issued: "So sad, leave Mr Tumnus alone."

Gemmell was teased for appearing to have been crying in his police mugshot: "Poor Fulla. Looks like he's had the fat cry. Someone give him a hug."

The post also saw dozens of comments from people mocking Gemmell's first name and making racist comments.

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Some were upset by the comments, with one person writing: "I can't believe New Zealand Police allows all this violent disgusting behaviour by its citizens. There is no need for the ugly words. Just pass the info along and be polite. This is why New Zealand needs to ban hate speech and bullying."

Police did respond, asking users to "please support us by refraining from posting unhelpful or derogatory comments".

Gemmell even spoke out on social media while on the run, writing: "stay safe Deep South, don't believe everything in the media".

He later added: "Media realise tomorrow."

This week, Judge Russell Walker remanded Gemmell in custody and scheduled a sentencing hearing for the prison assault next week.