Man sent back to prison after mingling with Mob

Steven Betham, who appeared in the Dunedin District Court by video link, breached his release...
Steven Betham, who appeared in the Dunedin District Court by video link, breached his release conditions three times in three months. PHOTO: ROB KIDD
A man involved in a jailhouse killing continued consorting with gang members on his release from prison, a court has heard.

Steven Betham (43) was convicted of manslaughter in 2016 and sentenced to six years’ imprisonment, after 44-year-old Benton Marni Parata was beaten to death in Christchurch Men’s Prison.

Akuhatua Tihi was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment while Levi Hohepa Reuben, like Betham, was found guilty of manslaughter and was locked up for seven years and eight months.

Betham, who acted as a lookout during the incident, appeared in the Dunedin District Court this week after admitting to three charges of breaching release conditions imposed by the Parole Board.

He had been released from prison on April 28 and fitted with a GPS tracker so Corrections could monitor his movements.

Among a range of conditions were orders not to possess alcohol or drugs and not to associate with the Mongrel Mob.

It took Betham less than three weeks to slip up.

Because he failed to charge his tracker, it ran out of power.

Betham said the situation arose because he had fallen asleep, but Judge David Robinson said he had "heard that excuse before" and viewed it with some scepticism.

The defendant was given a six-month suspended sentence — an incentive to keep him compliant.

But it did not have the desired effect.

On July 22, police pulled over a vehicle and found Betham with two Mongrel Mob members in full regalia.

A breath test showed he had been drinking too.

The defendant was remorseless.

"They were driving me home from a work do," he explained.

"They are my family. You’ll never keep me from my family."

Counsel Sarah Saunderson-Warner said her client had been stranded outside Dunedin and simply needed a ride home.

The important thing, she argued, was that Betham had not committed further violence offences while out of prison.

His supporters were all in Christchurch, but he had been unable to live there because of links to his victim, she said.

Betham told Judge Robinson he had been set up to fail.

"They put me in an address where there was Mongrel Mob congregating ... it’s not easy when you’re right in the middle of it," he said.

Betham was jailed for seven months.




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