'Houdini' gets four more years in prison

Aaron Forden was sentenced at the Auckland District Court today.
Aaron Forden was sentenced at the Auckland District Court today.

The prisoner nicknamed "Houdini" has been sent back to jail for an extra four years and three months as punishment for escaping from police and prison.

Aaron Stephen Forden, 31, was sentenced in the Auckland District Court today on 22 charges, including escaping from the Whangarei courthouse and from Mt Eden prison last year, driving charges, a number of burglaries and an assault with a weapon, namely a Subaru vehicle - which he drove at someone.

Forden, who gained his nickname after evading both police and Corrections custody on several occasions, has been housed at Paremoremo in the country's tightest maximum security wing since his last escape.

When he appeared in court today he was flanked by two security guards while three more officers also present.

Prosecutor Scott McColgan said Forden had caused significant emotional harm to his victims, including at one particular home he burgled where he not only stole from the family but plugged a drain and flooded the house as well.

He said that while his crimes should not be allowed to disappear into the "ether" of his other offending, the Crown accepted Forden had a difficult childhood and was trying to turn his life around. He asked there be no minimum term of non-parole.

Forden wrote a four-page letter to the judge explaining his remorse and what he thought he needed to do to ensure he did not return in front of the court.

Defence counsel Howard Lawry said Forden needed help and rehabilitation to ensure he could make something of his life. He said Forden was currently spending a lot of time in isolation and having to deal with some "very dangerous people" which was unhelpful.

He asked for a prison sentence that would also allow Forden to complete a programme and receive help rather than "wasting" his life inside.

Judge Anna Kiernan noted Forden had a great number of convictions, including some from youth court and 89 as an adult, and had spent only 13 years of his life outside prison, including three on the run.

She said a report from a psychiatrist had helped with her decision. It said Forden offended because he felt he had a lack of support and family issues. He was scared inside the prison wing and "had enough", vowing "never to offend again".

Judge Kiernan said it would be up to the parole board to decide if he would be released earlier to a community programme.

"I now hope you will not try to escape from the prison or make things any worse for yourself," the judge said.

Auckland Now