Police say a man who escaped from the Whakatane District Court straight after being sentenced for violence should not be approached under any circumstances.
They say Mana Justin Tangitutu, 27, has extensive gang connections and is known to carry weapons.
He fled the building about 5.15pm on Wednesday after he was sentenced to a short prison term for a domestic assault.
Tangitutu escaped as prison officers dealt with another prisoner. Officers have failed to find him despite an extensive search.
Tangitutu is described as Maori, about 180cm tall, with a distinctive full facial tattoo with the word 'Mongrel' above his upper lip.
The area commander for eastern Bay of Plenty, Inspector Sandra Venables, says arrangements have been made to protect the person Tangitutu assaulted.