A convicted murderer will be behind bars even longer after a drunken assault on a Manawatu Prison officer, but it remains unclear how he got the alcohol that fuelled the attack.
Shaun Mihaka Sullivan, 30, got drunk on home brew in the prison, then assaulted an officer who was trying to move him to a "safe cell". He admitted an assault charge and was sentenced to three months in prison.
In the Palmerston North District Court yesterday, Judge Jennifer Binns said this was an "academic" exercise, as Sullivan is serving a life sentence. He is not eligible for release until 2020, and is subject to a 12-year non-parole period for the 2008 murder of Featherston man Paul Irons.
A police summary says Sullivan was found drunk about 9.30pm on August 9. As two Corrections officers attempted to move him to a "safe cell", Sullivan punched one, Trevor Ballantine, twice in the face.
Mr Ballantine was left with minor bruising to his left eye. Sullivan declined to speak to police on the advice of a lawyer.
"He simply can't remember what happened," defence lawyer Paul Murray told the court yesterday. "He says he didn't know what he was doing."
He said Sullivan, who was moved to Manawatu Prison about a year ago, had not touched alcohol for five years. "It obviously had a serious effect on him. He was, by all accounts on the ground, unresponsive."
Sullivan will also face a prison internal disciplinary panel, where he could face a loss of privileges or other punishment, and his security rating will be increased.
Sullivan had entered a guilty plea and was remorseful, Mr Murray said.
"He points to it being a consequence of the alcohol consumed, which is not an excuse, he stresses, but simply an explanation."
Judge Binns said the three-month prison term would be served on top of Sullivan's current sentence.
The Department of Corrections was unable to answer by deadline questions about how Sullivan came to be drinking home brew.
Manawatu Prison manager Ngaire Knowles said Corrections did not tolerate prisoners using violence, and Sullivan had been held to account for his actions.
"Prisoners can be volatile and unpredictable, and many [inmates] have long histories of antisocial behaviour and resort to violence with little warning," Ms Knowles said.
Mr Ballantine did not take any time off work and had made a full recovery, she said.
When he was sentenced for Mr Irons' murder, the court was told that Sullivan had 29 previous convictions, including 12 for violent offending.
Mr Irons' father, Jack, said he had never known pain like he felt when he made the decision to turn off his son's life support. "I thought my chest would explode, it hurt so much."
- © Fairfax NZ News
Do you agree with increased oil exploration?