Judge offers 'clean slate' to Devast8

Infamous criminal "Devast8" has been sentenced after yet another raft of serious offending, including assaulting a police officer, but a judge has tried to help him change his ways - offering “a clean slate start” for the repeat offender.

Mark Anthony Cropp, 26, became internationally known in 2017 when he spoke to The New Zealand Herald about his struggle to get a job due to the crude black tattoo across his face of his nickname Devast8.

He revealed that during a lag in prison, after a heavy night of drinking, he’d allowed his brother to etch the tattoo.

When released he wanted to get off the unemployment benefit, get a job and put food on the table for his family.

However, employers would not have a bar of him because of the tattoo.

The story led to a number of offers for Cropp - who had young children - of jobs and tattoo removal services.

Mark Cropp outside court in South Auckland. Photo: NZ Herald
Mark Cropp outside court in South Auckland. Photo: NZ Herald
He attended one session to get the ink lasered off his face but did not attend subsequent appointments and later said he had decided to keep the design.

He has since added to the tattoo to reflect his gang links.

Soon after his story became public he was charged with assaulting and threatening to kill a woman.

He has been before the courts regularly since then.

What Devast8 did next

Most recently he was sent back to prison after being convicted of disorderly behaviour, possession of methamphetamine and cannabis, resisting arrest, contravening a protection order and failing to give correct information after a crash.

The offending occurred in November 2022 and he was finally sentenced in September this year.

The Herald then sought his full criminal history, which was eventually granted by the court.

It shows all of Cropp’s offending from 2015 until the most recent sentence.

Cropp’s latest stint in prison came after an incident on November 4 last year.

Police charged Cropp with failing to give his name, disorderly behaviour likely to cause violence, resisting police, assaulting a police officer, possession of meth and cannabis, possession of drug utensils and breaching the Medicines Act.

On the afternoon of November 4, Cropp was driving his Toyota on Fitzgerald Ave in central Christchurch.

Mark Cropp had one session to remove the tattoo at Sacred Laser, which offered to do the job free...
Mark Cropp had one session to remove the tattoo at Sacred Laser, which offered to do the job free. Photo: NZ Herald
Police decided to stop him due to his manner of driving, and activated their lights and sirens.

He pulled into a car park and when officers approached him and told him they wanted to issue an infringement notice he refused multiple times to disclose his name and address.

Cropp got out of his vehicle and refused to get back in it despite being told repeatedly to do so by the officers.

He “started speaking loudly”, resulting in a number of people coming to see what the commotion was about.

He continued to yell while “walking aggressively” towards the police several times.

Cropp was then arrested.

“The arresting officer attempted to grab [Cropp’s] arm to place him in handcuffs and he pulled away,” court documents state.

“The constable then attempted to restrain [Cropp] on the bonnet of the vehicle and he pulled away and got free.

“He ran around the vehicle and was pursued by the police officer who attempted to grab Cropp several times - but he continued to walk and run away before turning to the officer and presenting his fists in a fighting stance.

“The officer took his taser from his holster and [Cropp] turned to leave again.

“The officer managed to get hold of [Cropp], wrestle him to the ground and restrain him on his front.”

But Cropp got loose again by elbowing the officer in the leg and slipping from his grasp.

The officer managed to pull Cropp to the ground and restrained him until backup arrived and the arrest could be completed.

Officers searched Cropp and located a small plastic container attached to his right ankle which held 2.25g of meth, 2.56g of cannabis and a glass pipe.

They then invoked a warrantless search of Cropp’s car.

Two more glass pipes were uncovered as well as two cannabis bongs, 28 tramadol pills and six small bags containing a total of 7.42g of cannabis.

When Cropp appeared before Judge Quentin Hix for sentence he also had a new conviction for breaching a protection order and two for failing to give information about crashes he caused.

Cropp was involved in two collisions within a minute on Bealey Ave in central Christchurch on November 22 last year.

He did not stop after either collision and it was later established by police that Cropp had caused both crashes through unsafe lane changes.

At sentencing Judge Hix said he wanted to “tidy everything up” for Cropp.

He said three months in prison was appropriate for the charge of breaching the protection order with a month added for the assault on the cop and resisting arrest - noting the offender had been in custody for eight months already.

“On all the other charges, I have dealt with them essentially by way of a convict and discharge,” he said.

Judge Hix also converted Cropp’s outstanding fines, totalling $1800, to jail time.

“You are young, so I hope you can figure out how to avoid coming back here and do stuff that you really enjoy that does not involve you getting in trouble,” he told Cropp.

“I hope you can find some help along that line if you can.

“I am trying to give you a clean slate start today. - please treat it in the way it has been given to you.”

Cropp told the judge he would go and live with his grandmother.

“She’s come out every fortnight to the prison and supported me,” he said.

He also revealed he now had a pacemaker - a device surgically implanted to prevent a person’s heart beating too slowly.

“She wants to keep a close eye on me, with having the pacemaker,” Cropp told Judge Hix.

The judge said he did not know Cropp’s grandmother “from a bar of soap” but hoped she “was like most other people’s nans and she is going to to help you”.

“It sounds like you have some challenges there so I really encourage you, if you can find some help for you, take it, all right?”.

A lengthy criminal history

Judge Hix is not the only judge to whom Cropp has promised change.

In November 2019, he told Christchurch District Court Judge David Saunders that he wanted to clean up from methamphetamine, get his tattoo removed by laser treatment, and turn his life around for his kids.

Cropp was sentenced to 10 months in jail on charges of male assaults female, presenting an imitation pistol, intimidating behaviour, breach of a protection order, caught carrying a meat cleaver “for protection” and a cannabis grinder.

The Herald reported that Cropp “sobbed” in court as he told Judge Saunders that he was looking at laser removal - again - and was in talks with an Auckland tattoo removal studio for help.

Judge Saunders said he’s “certainly made a statement” by the tattoo but urged him to get it removed, for the sake of his children and in trying to get a new job.

In early 2019 Cropp was convicted in the Papakura District Court of assaulting and threatening a pregnant woman.

A week later he pleaded guilty in the Manukau District Court to further charges related to a firearms incident.

His lawyer at the time blamed the media for Cropp’s issues.

“[Cropp] found it difficult to gain employment, accommodation, obtain social support - in part due to his facial tattoo, but this has been cruelly aggravated by being repeatedly mocked and ridiculed by the media,” he said.

The lawyer told the court Cropp wanted to move on with his life but the “repeated incursions of the media have put a strain” on him.

He said if the Herald covered the current case it would cause his client “heightened notoriety” and “unwanted attention”.

Further, he said since the charges were first Cropp had been subject to “threats of death and injury” from members of the public.

“Every time he is subject to media reports he finds himself concerned for his own safety,” he said.

“The reporting of this case has more to do with voyeurism and entertainment than what could properly be called ‘public interest’.

Cropp also wrote to the court trying to prevent the Herald from covering his case.

Describing himself as a “job seeker” he claimed he was currently looking for a job.

“After I appeared in the Herald [in 2017] my story went viral and I got emails from all over the world with people wanting to interview me,” he wrote.

“At the time I thought it was cool having my image everywhere and the attention.

”I have, however, moved on now and this media attention messes with my life.”

Cropp said every time a story about him was published he was “subject to death threats and abuse from strangers” when he was walking down the street.

“It does not feel safe for me… it makes it hard just to get on with life when people are pre-judging you all the time from what they are seeing in the media and doing stuff like yelling at me for absolutely no reason when they drive past,” he wrote.

Mark Cropp has a lengthy criminal conviction list. Photo: NZH
Mark Cropp has a lengthy criminal conviction list. Photo: NZH
Cropp blamed media attention for his struggle to get accommodation.

“The landlords knew all about my previous convictions from the media and this made it hard to get a place to rent,” he explained.

“I understand that there has been an allegation and that I must be part of the court process as a result, but it is unfair that [I] be subjected to more media scrutiny than anyone else.”

Cropp’s vast criminal history dates back to 2015 - well before he was featured in any news stories.

The court allowed the Herald to publish part of his conviction history.

In Nelson he has convictions for shoplifting, drugs, assault, intentional damage, escaping lawful custody, breaching community work and aggravated robbery with a “stabbing or cutting weapon”.

In Christchurch his convictions include assault with a blunt instrument, assaulting a female, threatening to injure, presenting a firearm-like object, possessing an offensive weapon and drug utensil suppression.

His most recent offences have been added to that list.

By Anna Leask