1493265791342 - Shorter sentence for man convicted of Christchurch prison manslaughter

Shorter sentence for man convicted of Christchurch prison manslaughter

A man convicted of the manslaughter of a fellow inmate will spend less time in prison after his sentence was reduced by the  Court of Appeal.

Levi Hohepa Reuben was one of three men who beat Benton Parata in his cell at Christchurch Men’s Prison in March 2015.

Following the trio’s trial in the High Court in Christchurch in June 2016, Akuhatua Tihi, 23, was jailed for life with a non-parole term of 13 years for Parata’s murder, while Levi Hohepa Reuben, 21, was jailed for seven years eight months, and Steven Betham​, 38, for six years, both for manslaughter.

Tihi appealed his murder conviction in the same hearing, but it was dismissed and his sentence remained unchanged.

On the day of the attack, Tihi and Reuben waited outside Parata’s cell door for him to return. When he did, Tihi, hands bound in white tape, walked into Parata’s cell immediately followed by Reuben.

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Betham also entered the cell for a short time, acting as a lookout.

A beating ensued, described by Justice Gerald Nation as an “unrelenting and very violent” attack, including multiple blunt-force injuries to the head, face and neck.

Parata was discovered by a prison guard around half-an-hour later and was taken to hospital. Despite undergoing surgery, he died six days later from a subdural haemorrhage to the brain.

He was serving a brief prison term for driving offences. According to a family statement at the time, the attack was provoked by resentment due to the mana Parata had gained among fellow inmates.

Tihi appealed his murder conviction. He admitted his involvement in the killing but denied murderous intent.

The Court of Appeal dismissed his conviction appeal.

Counsel James Rapley argued Reuben’s sentence of seven years and eight months, with a minimum imprisonment period of four years, was “manifestly excessive”.

Rapley said a greater sentence discount should have been given to Reuben due to his age and his guilty plea to the manslaughter charge.

He also argued a minimum imprisonment period was inappropriate.

Reuben was 20 years old at the time of the attack and, despite an extensive criminal history, he had no previous convictions involving violence.

The Court of Appeal decided “some allowance for Mr Reuben’s youth ought to have been allowed” during sentencing, particularly as a minimum imprisonment period was imposed. 

“He was still a young man at the time of the offending and he had not previously had any convictions for violent offending,” the court ruling said.

“A discount of 10 per cent…was appropriate.” A further discount of 20 per cent was given by the court for his guilty plea.

However, it said the judge was right to impose a minimum imprisonment period of a little under half of the finite sentence.

After the above discounts, the Court of Appeal altered Reuben’s sentence to six years and six months, with a minimum period of imprisonment of three years and three months.

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