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High profile prisoners take strip-search case to High Court

Radio New Zealand logo Radio New Zealand 20/03/2018

Sliding barred doors and lock: Inside the maximum security prison at Paremoremo in Auckland © RNZ / Claire Eastham Farrelly Inside the maximum security prison at Paremoremo in Auckland CCTV footage of an attack by some maximum security prisoners on staff has been shown to a court after two high-profile prisoners claimed the strip search that followed was unlawful.

Arthur Taylor and Philip John Smith are fighting the case against the Department of Corrections at the High Court in Auckland.

The prisoners - who are representing themselves - claim the strip search of 209 prisoners at Paremoremo prison in October 2016 contravenes the Bill of Rights and the Corrections Act.

CCTV footage was shown where two corrections staff members went to a grill to pass over a mop and bucket to a maximum security prisoner. When the grill was opened, four prisoners attacked the two staff members.

More than 20 staff came to their aid within minutes, with one being injured and taken to the ground.

Staff members were punched, kicked and attacked with a shank made from a television unit, prison director Tom Sherlock told Taylor when questioned today.

One staff member was taken to hospital with stab wounds to the head, he said.

Mr Sherlock said he requested a review after the attack, but it was superseded by the national office which ordered an operational review.

The report heavily criticised how staff managed the incident during and after. There should have been three staff present when the mop and bucket were given to the prisoner, too many staff were present when they reacted to the incident and there was no debrief, it said.

Mr Sherlock ordered searches of prisoners' cells and a strip search of 209 prisoners after the attack.

The reason was because prisoners involved in the attack had home brew and had made a weapon from a television, so a search was called to ensure other prisoners did not have home brew or its ingredients, or weapons, he said.

"We didn't know how far it spread across."

Taylor and Smith were part of the mass search and when Taylor asked Mr Sherlock if anything was found on them or in their cells, he said there was not.

But Mr Sherlock said contraband was found in the search as a whole.

Taylor and Smith are seeking at least $600 in compensation for each prisoner searched.

The hearing continues today.

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