Officer’s ear bitten in first maximum three-strikes inmate’s horrific escape attempt

New Zealand’s first maximum three-strikes sentence inmate has received more jail time after slipping out of a handcuff and attacking two prison officers.

He also bit a guard in the head and “removed part of the officer’s ear” in the mayhem outside Whanganui Hospital.

Hayze Neihana Waitokia pleaded guilty to injuring with intent to injure and aggravated assault.

Justice Andru Isac said Waitokia was a sentenced prisoner at the Whanganui Men’s Prison.

He cut his lip one day and told staff he’d fallen over – but the judge said it was more likely Waitokia’s cellmate assaulted him.

Waitokia was cuffed and put in a prison van with two Corrections officers, according to new High Court sentencing notes published on Friday.

One of the officers was about to finish his shift but decided to stay on and help out, because Waitokia needed medical assistance.

Waitokia slipped one of his hands out of the cuffs, and the prison van arrived outside the hospital.

“One officer opened the door of the van, at which point you pushed the door open and struck the officer a number of times in the head with the handcuff,” Justice Isac said.

The other officer tackled the prisoner and Waitokia hit him on the head with the handcuff, “before reaching forward and biting and removing part of the officer’s ear,” the judge added.

Waitokia was injected with a sedative, restrained, and put back in the van. The incident happened in 2019 but further details did not emerge until Waitokia was sentenced.

“The second officer had 19 stitches to his head, as well as the loss of part of his ear, although I am told that grew back,” Justice Isac said.

“He had black eyes, bruising, and had to take two weeks off work as a result of the injuries you caused him.”

Waitokia has previously been jailed for wounding with intent to injure, for assault, for domestic violence, and for stalking and sexually assaulting a 17 year-old girl.

In 2018, Justice David Collins sentenced Waitokia to seven years’ imprisonment for wounding with intent to injure, after drunkenly stabbing a man in the leg while on bail.

The judge who sentenced him then said Waitokia, 26 at the time, posed a high-risk of reoffending.

The three-strike law means people convicted of a third serious violent, sex or drug offence should get the maximum available sentence without parole, unless it would be manifestly unjust.

The law was in place for eight years before Waitokia received the maximum penalty.

All judges in earlier cases nationwide said maximum terms would be manifestly unjust.

For the attack on the Corrections staff, Waitokia was sentenced to one year and 11 months’ imprisonment. It is a cumulative sentence, so he cannot serve it simultaneously with his stabbing sentence.

Despite Waitokia’s history of unprovoked or unwarranted violence, Justice Isac said there was still hope for him.

He said Waitokia as a child was disconnected from his marae and heritage and had a deprived upbringing where violence was normalised.

But Justice Isac said Waitokia’s parents had worked hard to address their own issues, and now provided a loving and stable environment for their grandchildren.

“So there is another model for you about changing behaviour,” he told the prisoner.

Justice Isac said Waitokia had shown a desire to get training or education, and learn about his Māori identity.

“I really want to encourage you to take the time that you have to spend in prison to get yourself sorted out.”

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