Man behind prison beating waives parole

Hirini Te Runa (28) waived his right to appear before the Parole Board and will next be...
Hirini Te Runa (28) waived his right to appear before the Parole Board and will next be considered for release in March next year. PHOTO: ROB KIDD
A gang enforcer who repeatedly beat his cellmate as part of a prospect initiation will remain behind bars for at least another year.

Hirini Desmond Te Runa (28) was serving a sentence of nearly three years’ imprisonment at the Otago Corrections Facility in April 2017 when his victim applied to share a cell with him in the high-risk unit.

What followed was two weeks of severe beatings dished out by the patched Black Power member.

Court documents show the violence was couched as "conditioning" for the apprentice, who was in the early stages of gang recruitment.

Te Runa had his case heard before the Parole Board for the first time at the end of last year, newly released documents reveal.

However, he waived his right to appear in person since he had no release proposal and various courses yet to be completed.

The prisoner, who was now housed in the Auckland South Corrections Facility, was scheduled to undertake the special treatment unit rehabilitation programme and the drug treatment programme, which could prompt a move to Christchurch, panel convener Kathryn Snook said.

Until that was done, Te Runa remained an undue risk on release, the board ruled.

Ms Snook said the man had "a very concerning history of violent offending".

He had racked up seven misconducts in the past 18 months of incarceration.

Despite that, Te Runa was a low-medium security prisoner.

He was sentenced to three and a-half years’ imprisonment for injuring with intent to do grievous bodily harm in 2017.

During the consensual beatings, which spanned nearly two weeks, Te Runa struck the victim all over his body, with a particular focus on the man’s genitals.

The victim refused to leave his cell, so his injuries went unnoticed, and when prison officers did their rounds he covered himself with items of clothing.

However, on May 19, he was found with both eyes filled with blood.

His face was "swollen and unrecognisable" from the blows he had sustained, the court heard.

The victim was covered in bruises, suffered broken ribs and haematomas, and was urinating blood before being admitted to hospital.

"This was part of some long, drawn-out gang-related ritual and it needs to be condemned in the strongest terms," Judge Michael Crosbie said at sentencing.

Te Runa will appear again before the Parole Board in March 2021.

Ms Snook asked for a psychological assessment to be made available for that hearing, considering his treatment gains and release proposal.

It might be appropriate, she said, for the prisoner to be released to a residential rehabilitation programme.

His sentence ends in December 2021.