A violent prisoner with an "appalling record" has avoided an indefinite jail term after cutting his gang ties and vowing to have his facial tattoos removed.
Rawiri David Wereta, 32, appeared in Auckland High Court this morning after committing his second prison shanking within a year.
The charge of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm could have made him the first person ever to be given a third strike - resulting in life in jail without parole - but Wereta dodged a life behind bars on a technicality.
He received his first-strike warning when he was jailed for 10 and a half years in 2013 over a violent aggravated robbery and other offences in Dunedin.
Months after being locked up, he nearly killed a fellow inmate in a frenzied stabbing, after which he performed a shirtless "victory parade" of the cell block.
The most recent shanking took place on April 1 last year but the court had not given him the second-strike warning for the previous offence.
So it became his "second second-strike offence", according to Crown prosecutor Scott McColgan.
The latest incident, inside the maximum security D-Block unit at Paremoremo prison, involved Wereta and an associate setting upon fellow inmate Willie Falefa while he hung out his washing.
The victim tried to hold them off by using the washing line as a whip but the defendant ripped it from his grasp while slashing at him with a foot-long sharpened steel instrument.
Falefa then grabbed a mop but that too was futile as Wereta stabbed him in the arms.
The man was left with several puncture wounds and "flail arm" - the primary nerve being severed, causing the arm to hang limply.
Falefa recovered from the injuries, the court heard.
Justice Geoffrey Venning considered imposing preventive detention, an indefinite period of imprisonment designed to protect the public from the worst recidivist offenders.
But defence lawyer Peter Tomlinson highlighted his client's efforts to turn his life around.
He said Wereta had begun the "drastic movement" of having his tattoos removed, many of which portrayed his affiliations with the Black Power and Nomads gangs.
Medical professionals were also cautiously optimistic about the future of the defendant after he opted to engage in therapy and take medication to control his anger for the first time since being inside.
There were also anecdotal reports from prison staff who said they had noticed a change in Wereta's attitude.
"Your case is finely balanced. Your record is an appalling record of violence, both in the community and in prison," Justice Venning said.
"However, I'm influenced by the steps you have taken, albeit recently, to address your behavioural issues."
He added six years nine months to Wereta's sentence, which he said would keep him behind bars until at least his late 40s.
The defendant and his similarly heavily-tattooed brother Damian now each have two strikes to their name.
Damian Wereta, 35, will spend at least 17 years in jail after he too was sentenced for a prison shanking in the same court last month.