A man’s mental condition has relapsed badly into hearing voices as he stayed in custody awaiting sentence for trying to escape at the Court House and breaking a prison officer’s jaw with a punch.
Concern about Terence Junior Whaanga’s mental health was raised by prison authorities in the pre-sentence report prepared for today’s Christchurch District Court sentencing.
Defence counsel Miranda Rout told the court that a marked change had been noted since she last saw Whaanga when he had been lucid, apologetic for his offending and wanting to get his life back on track.
“He’s now hearing voices again,” she told Judge Philip Moran, asking for a further remand for a psychiatric report for sentencing.
Judge Moran decided that the delay for the report was not necessary and any mental health issues could be addressed in the context of a prison sentence. Whaanga could be transferred to a mental health facility if the prison thought it appropriate.
Whaanga punched a prison officer without warning, breaking his jaw, in an effort to be transferred to another prison wing. At a court sitting in December, he made a break for freedom by jumping from the dock but was stopped by police escort staff before he got out of the room.
Judge Moran noted it was Whaanga’s seventh conviction for escaping.
Imposing jail terms totalling 17 months, he said: “I accept you are having mental health issues. I also accept that prison may impact upon you in a way that a well person might not expect. But I will leave it to the prison authorities to look after you and take care of any mental health issues that arise.”