10 Oct 2016

Prison officer's killer involved in jail stabbing

2:58 pm on 10 October 2016

A man who killed a prison officer has had 13 months added to his sentence after being involved in a stabbing of another inmate inside the country's maximum security prison.

Latu Kepu, 27, has an extensive history of violence and was jailed for six years and four months for the manslaughter of Jason Palmer at Springhill Prison in Waikato in 2010.

Kepu is the first person in this country to kill a prison officer and has been convicted for other assaults on officers.

In the High Court in Auckland today, his lawyer, Peter Eastwood, argued that Kepu should be able to appeal against his latest conviction for assault with intent to injure.

The agreed-upon summary of facts stated that in October last year Kepu, his co-offender and a third man were all inmates of Bravo Block at Auckland's maximum security prison at Paremoremo.

Kepu and his co-offender waited until the victim had returned to his cell from the showers and followed him into his cell.

Kepu was seen taking something from the waistband of his trousers before the attack.

The inmate was left with multiple stab wounds to his torso and one to his neck. Some of the wounds were described as being deep.

Kepu and his co-offender left the cell and tried to get rid of their clothing. Another inmate attempted to clean the victim's cell.

Later, the victim asked prison authorities for plasters and Panadol and the assault was only uncovered after an investigation.

In calculating Kepu's sentence in the North Shore District Court, Judge Lawrence Hinton started with a 15-month jail term, added three months for Kepu's previous offending and then gave the full 25 percent discount for Kepu's guilty plea.

However, Mr Eastwood said Kepu pleaded guilty because he was told by his original lawyer that the new sentence would be served concurrently with the sentence he was already serving - meaning he would spend no extra time in prison.

Mr Eastwood said Kepu did not do the stabbing but was actually trying to prevent it and that explained why his client got a cut to his little finger.

He said Kepu did admit punching the victim twice in the head.

However, Crown prosecutor David Wiseman said Kepu was bound by the summary of facts that he had pleaded guilty to. There was also some evidence that the District Court judge was not aware of the full extent of Kepu's criminal history, he said.

Justice Muir ruled that he did not accept Kepu's claim of what he had been told by his lawyer, saying it was inconsistent with the District Court judge's sentencing notes.

He said there was a clear inference in the summary that Kepu pulled an item from the waistband of his pants and this was the weapon used in the stabbing.

The judge said if Kepu was now saying his role was confined to punches to the head then the matter should have gone to a disputed facts hearing but there was no suggestion this was pursued in the District Court and it was inappropriate for the High Court to re-visit the matter now.

Justice Muir said the attack had a number of aggravating factors, including that it happened in a prison, that there were blows to the head and that it showed premeditation and planning.

However, he give Kepu the right to bring an appeal.

Attack on prison guard

Kepu was jailed for the manslaughter of Mr Palmer after an attack in May 2010. Mr Palmer was opening Kepu's cell door to escort him to the exercise yard when Kepu attacked him. Mr Palmer fell backwards and hit his head on the concrete paving, causing him fatal injuries.

At the time Kepu was serving sentences for violent assaults, including repeatedly kicking a police officer in the head and a violent attack on a pregnant woman.

In 2013 Kepu had seven months added to his sentence after assaulting two other prison officers.

It is understood both officers were taken to hospital following the separate incidents and neither was seriously hurt.

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