Another four years' jail for 'Houdini'

Aaron Forden. Photo/APN
Aaron Forden. Photo/APN
He's broken out of the country's toughest prisons, escaped from a court house, spent years on the run and rammed police cars in his ceaseless conflict with authority, but the man known as Houdini will have a tough time getting out of this bind.

Aaron Forden was shackled to a security guard as he was sentenced to four years and three months imprisonment today after pleading guilty to 22 offences, bringing the 31-year-old's tally of convictions to more than 100.

Crown prosecutor Scott McColgan told the Auckland District Court this illustrated his "recalcitrant" nature and his "commitment" to offending.

The latest crime spree included numerous residential burglaries and thefts, as well as two counts of assault with a motor vehicle, after he rammed police cars while evading arrest.

He was also sentenced today for escaping from a secure interview room at Whangarei District Court, and for breaking out of the new $218 million Mt Eden Corrections Facility - he was the first person to do so - last October.

Prison operator Serco was fined $150,000 for the breach, and two of its staff were stood down.

Mr McColgan accepted that Forden was entitled to a shortened sentence for his early guilty plea, but he pointed out that he could have pleaded guilty even earlier if he hadn't escaped custody.

The most serious offences were the burglaries, which resulted in significant monetary loss to victims, as well as the loss of "irreplaceable" objects with sentimental value like family photographs and jewellery.

During one burglary Forden flooded a house by blocking the sinks and turning the taps on, Mr McColgan said.

The Crown did not seek a minimum non-parole period so as to provide an incentive for Forden to turn his life around.

Forden's lawyer Howard Lawry said this was of no significance because "the Parole Board doesn't exactly think very highly of him".

He said Forden recognised "what a waste his life has been" and was committed to changing his ways.

In a letter to the court, extracts of which were read out, Forden said he had spent all but 13 years of his life locked up, and three of those were while he was on the run from police.

The latest offending stemmed from a lack of support, and his need to find somewhere to stay and get food to eat.

"I will never offend again," the letter said.

Judge Anne Kiernan took into account Forden's early guilty plea and remorse when passing sentence.

"I hope that you now won't try to escape from the prison and make matters worse for yourself," she said.

Forden has previously escaped from the old Mt Eden Prison by crawling through roof cavities to a tower and using knotted-together sheets to lower himself over barbed wire. In June he spent three days barricaded inside a disused watch tower in Auckland Prison at Paremoremo.


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