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Mt Eden fight clubs go back to 2009

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 8/11/2016 Sean Martin

Corrections was tipped off seven years ago that gang-organised fight clubs were being run at Mt Eden prison and guards may have been betting on them, according to reports the department has sat on until now.

It is under fire for how it handled the allegations after it took until footage of the fights emerged online last year for anything to happen - private provider Serco lost its contract to run Mt Eden Correctional Facility in December.

On Tuesday, the department released two reports into allegations gangs and even guards themselves were running fight clubs and prison officers were either turning a blind eye or betting on the outcomes of scraps.

A 2014 probe found there were gang-organised fight clubs at Mt Eden. There was no evidence staff were involved but it was unlikely they were completely unware of them, it said.

Similar clubs may have been run at Ngawha in Northland and Rimutaka, near Wellington.

Serco staff said the fights had stopped more than a year before and they could stop them happening if they were fully staffed, although Corrections noted understaffing was regularly happening.

Investigators weren't able to review CCTV of the fights because the footage was only kept for 14 days and no one could say when the clubs were run.

The report recommended stopping fight club organisers activities and ensuring there were enough staff on to prevent the fights.

The 50 incidents it looked at showed Serco wasn't reporting them as it should have and the probe turned up allegations of staff assaulting prisoners, a lack of medical treatment, alack of ability to report complaints, staff alerting prisoners to sex offenders who were then beaten.

In 2009 Corrections looked into allegations of Killer Beez-run fight clubs at the old Mt Eden prison, before it was run by Serco, and that guards were watching and betting up to $5000 on the result.

A senior investigator said the reports were consistent and credible but there wasn't enough evidence to indicate or identify staff wrongdoing.

However, he did recommend assaults be monitored to see if fight clubs were going on.

Corrections Minister Judith Collins says the reports are appalling, RNZ reports.

"What's really disturbing is that these reports were not elevated at the right time to the chief executive or to the ministers at the time."

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