Gang leader jailed for street attack

Gang leader Albert Epere swung a traditional Maori club at someone on a central Dunedin street. Photo: ODT files
Gang leader Albert Epere swung a traditional Maori club at someone on a central Dunedin street. Photo: ODT files
A Dunedin gang kingpin has been jailed over a street attack in which he swung a patu at another man's head.

Mangu Kaha Dunedin chapter president Albert Victor Epere (51) was sentenced to seven and a-half months' imprisonment when he appeared before the Dunedin District Court yesterday on charges of possessing a weapon and assault with a weapon.

But because of the time he spent behind bars awaiting the case's resolution, he will be almost immediately released, the court heard.

Epere was not involved at the outset of the incident on June 28.

One victim had parked his BMW at the intersection of Stafford and Princes Sts and was talking to a second man.

Meanwhile, Mangu Kaha prospect Paora Tawhirimatea Grant (21) had just left court with fellow gang junior Billy Steven Cooper (26).

Seeing the victims, Grant drove directly at the car, hitting the BMW's driver door.

The man on foot was thrown backwards on to the footpath from the force of the smash, while the driver remained in his seat.

Grant reversed and again aimed his Subaru at the stationary vehicle, shunting it on to the footpath.

Epere, who had also just left court, saw what was going on and pulled up near the scene.

He and patched member Poutokomanawa Bubba Matiu Hapi (25) got out of the car; Epere wielding the traditional wooden weapon.

Hapi, Grant and Cooper attacked the driver of the BMW, who was now out of the car, kicking and punching him.

Epere directed two men to leave and he confronted the victim, who got off the ground to face him.

''Epere swung the patu at the victim's head and continued to yell aggressively towards him,'' a police summary said.

''Lucky he didn't connect,'' Judge Michael Turner said.

But defence counsel Anne Stevens claimed it had only been a warning shot and had never been intended to cause injury.

Epere left the scene shortly afterwards.

Judge Turner said the two victims were an ex-Mangu Kaha member and a rival gang member.

Epere told Probation his involvement in the scrap had been ''impulsive'' and the judge accepted that.

The defendant, who had a lengthy criminal history spanning decades and featuring violence, dishonesty and drugs, said he had recently made considerable efforts to become ''a better person''.

If that desire was genuine, Judge Turner said, his actions on the day would have been different.

''Rather than endeavouring to stop the attack, you joined in and your presence and comments no doubt encouraged other gang members to continue the assault,'' he said.

''If you really wished to be a better person, you should consider exiting the gang.''

The judge ordered the patu be destroyed.

Cooper, who pleaded guilty to assault with intent to injure and possession of ammunition, was jailed for 15 months and ordered to pay the victims $500.

Defence counsel Meg Scally said her client had found out shortly after the incident he was going to be a father and now had some major life decisions to make.

Judge Turner suggested leaving the gang life behind was the only option.

''You wish to be a positive, constructive member of the community ... you know what steps you need to take,'' he said. ''Ultimately, it's up to you.''

Hapi and Grant will be sentenced at a later date.

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