Trio broke into prison to hold a party

TALIA SHADWELL
Last updated 05:00 25/07/2014

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They just wanted to party - so a Wellington trio broke into a prison.

The razor wire that remains at the abandoned Wellington Prison at Mt Crawford could not keep out Stokes Valley's Swithun Nicholson, 23, who pleaded guilty to unlawfully being inside a building in the Hutt Valley District Court yesterday.

Nicholson and two associates were found drinking and smoking inside the prison on the night of July 5, according to the police summary of facts provided to the court.

They told police they got inside through a broken wooden door.

Nicholson's lawyer, Joseph Griffiths, told the court his client had been curious. "He and his associates at that time felt it would be ironic for people to be having fun in a place like Mt Crawford prison."

Hutt Valley District Court judge Peter Butler told Nicholson he understood his inquisitiveness. "I share your interest about what the interior of Mt Crawford looks like - I have been there myself - but I went on a day in which it was opened to the public. Perhaps you could have done that too."

Nicholson acknowledged outside court that his latest conviction was ironic given his history of escaping police custody.

In 2010, he fled a police officer in Upper Hutt who had managed to tackle him to the ground. The following year he led police, dogs and a rescue helicopter on a two-hour car chase into Hutt Valley bush.

Mt Crawford prison has been described by Heritage New Zealand as having "aesthetic, architectural, historical, social and technological significance".

Nicholson said the prison - where four prisoners were hanged - could add "haunted" to its credentials.

"It was everything you'd expect to see in a horror movie, to be honest. It was really eerie, on several occasions whilst being in the building we heard doors slamming and that should not be happening at all."

A reverse prison break appealed, he said. "Myself and one of my co-offenders, we'd actually served a sentence of imprisonment ourselves. So to take marijuana and alcohol in there and have a party it just seemed really funny to us.

"It was a good experience but the outcome wasn't so good."

He was convicted and will be recalled for sentencing if he reoffends within six months.

Nicholson hoped to never again see the inside of a prison. "I'm 23. I'm in that position where I can change my life now or I can be sitting in a prison cell 10 years from now wondering what I did with my life."

An alleged co-offender will appear in court today. The other was discharged without conviction.

Yesterday, a resident who works near the prison land showed evidence of another prison-breaking crew.

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A maintenance house on the perimeter had been broken into and a security camera smashed. One wooden pallet was hoisted on a roof in the prison courtyard and another rested on top of the razor wire coils leading inside the prison walls.

- The Dominion Post

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