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Prison violence: Whiu Te Aramakutu led to cells swearing after learning how long he will be in jail

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Whiu Te Aramakutu assaulted a prison guard and a police officer as he was being taken into Whanganui Prison. Photo / Bevan Conley

A gang member exclaimed “Holy s***!” in the dock as he learned how long his prison term would be for a string of violent offences.

Whiu Te Aramakutu’s victims included a Corrections officer, a policewoman, two prison inmates and an innocent householder whom he took on a frightening drive while robbing him of his car.

One of the prison inmates suffered a broken arm after being set upon by the 31-year-old and two associates behind the wire.

Judge Gordon Matenga sentenced Te Aramakutu to prison for four years and 10 months when he appeared in the Hastings District Court on Wednesday.

The sentence prompted Te Aramakutu to exclaim “Holy s***!” and then let out a string of obscenities that could be heard in the courtroom as he was being taken back to the cells.

“F***ing tell those victims I am going to f***ing blast them when I get out,” he said.

The charges he faced included four counts of assault with intent to injure, burglary, robbery and driving offences.

The court was told the offending began at a house in Woodville about 10pm on September 8, 2022, when a householder awoke to hear someone opening and closing his car doors.

When he went out to investigate, he found Te Aramakutu, wearing a Mongrel Mob top.

He told the householder he thought the Mitsubishi Lancer belonged to an associate, but he then offered to buy it.

When the householder said no, Te Aramakutu began punching him on the sides of his body and his jaw.

Both the Crown and the defence counsel agreed the punches were not particularly hard, but Judge Matenga said they got harder the longer the car owner said no.

Victim ‘very fearful’ on night-time drive

In the end, the householder offered to drive Te Aramakutu home, beginning a journey towards Dannevirke during which Te Aramakutu displayed a knife, snorted an unknown drug, told the driver to go faster and began pulling on the steering wheel from the passenger seat.

The victim was “very fearful”, Judge Matenga said. He offered the car to Te Aramakutu if he could be allowed to get out. He was pushed out of the car and left on the side of the road.

By 10.33pm, Te Aramakutu was in Dannevirke, driving onto the footpath and doing burnouts, making clouds of white smoke and leaving tyre marks.

At 10.55pm, police managed to stop him after seeing him driving at high speed near Waipukurau, about 50km further on. They found a meat cleaver-style knife in the vehicle.

Judge Matenga said the robbery victim received no physical injury but the emotional trauma had caused him “long-term harm”.

He had suffered months of broken sleep, anxiety and restlessness. An ACC claim was refused, so he had to fund his own treatment.

He and his partner no longer felt comfortable in their home.

“They are resolved to leave at the first opportunity,” Judge Matenga said.

Te Aramakutu appeared in the New Plymouth District Court the day after he took the car, and was remanded in custody.

Officers assaulted at prison

On arrival at Whanganui Prison, he got out of the police transport vehicle and, without warning, punched the Corrections Officer whose role was to receive him.

He then grabbed a female police officer who had been escorting him, lifted her off the ground and tried to run towards an open door, before being stopped.

Still in Whanganui Prison on February 18 this year, Te Aramakutu entered an exercise yard and shook hands with three other prisoners before punching another inmate who was standing on a bench.

The “full-force” blow knocked this man’s head into a wall and over the next five seconds, Te Aramakutu punched him seven times more.

After being transferred to Hawke’s Bay Regional Prison near Hastings, Te Aramakutu was involved in another prison assault on March 14.

He and two others carried out the assault on another inmate in a exercise yard shortly after being let out at breakfast time.

The victim was punched about 20 times, kneed and kicked repeatedly and suffered a broken arm, facial cuts and contusions.

‘Minimal empathy or remorse’

Judge Matenga said Te Aramakutu, who has previous convictions for violence, had “minimal empathy or remorse” for his victims.

In regard to the assaults in jail, the judge said he was mindful of the need to maintain order in the prison environment.

“The maintenance of discipline in the prison system needs to be managed and therefore a stern response is required.”

He jailed Te Aramakutu for four years and 10 months’ jail.

Hagen Henare had 17 months added to a sentence he is already serving. Photo / NZME
Hagen Henare had 17 months added to a sentence he is already serving. Photo / NZME

Second inmate sentenced for jail assault

Another inmate who was involved in the Hawke’s Bay Regional Prison assault on March 14 was also sentenced.

Hagen Henare, 33, a Mongrel Mob member with a history of kidnaping and violence, was given an additional 17 months in prison, cumulative on a three-and-a-half year sentence he received in February.

That sentence was for aggravated robbery after Henare and an associate assaulted and stole from a man who had gone to a Napier house to conduct a drug deal.

Judge Matenga said the prison assault was an incident between rival gang members.

“You and your associates essentially beat up a man belonging to a different gang,” the judge said.

Ric Stevens spent many years working for the former New Zealand Press Association news agency, including as a political reporter at Parliament, before holding senior positions at various daily newspapers. He joined NZME’s Open Justice team in 2022 and is based in Hawke’s Bay. His writing in the crime and justice sphere is informed by four years of front-line experience as a probation officer.

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