By Ric Stevens, Open Justice reporter of
A violent serial offender who has spent almost all of his adult life behind bars, including for manslaughter, was an abused child whose upbringing was a “pipeline to prison”.
Harlem Turi, 41, appeared for sentence on Friday in the Hastings District Court on three charges of demanding with menaces, and breaching extended supervision and community detention.
His defence counsel, Matthew Phelps, said the longest period Turi had spent outside of prison since he was a teenager was 268 days – less than nine months.
Phelps said a cultural report detailed Turi’s childhood and young life as one marked by deprivation, neglect, drugs and alcohol, spent in state care, boys’ homes and correctional training.
The report writer described this as a “pipeline to prison”.
Judge Phillip Cooper said the report made “very sad reading”, beginning with abuse within Turi’s whānau and then in state care, where he was placed at age 7.
“That abuse has shaped the person you have become today, where alcohol and drug abuse and violence have become normalised,” the judge said.
“I don’t know how someone can climb out of the black hole you are in.
“You say you are determined to do that but you don’t know how to go about it.”
The judge sentenced Turi to two years and seven months in jail.
The menacing charges arose after Turi demanded two people hand over their vehicles.
One was a man who was forced to give him two cars, and the other was a woman he did not know.
He and an accomplice entered her home at night and forced her to give him her car keys, telling her that he would come back and shoot her if she told anyone.
The Department of Corrections was so worried about Turi’s risk of reoffending when he was released from prison last year that it applied for the extended supervision order (ESO), usually granted to allow probation officers to keep tabs on high-risk sexual or violent offenders.
It was the latest in a series of moves by the department to manage the risk posed by Turi, who at that time had 97 convictions, 27 of them for violent offences, and had been assessed as having an “intense drive, desire or urge” to use violence.
Turi’s criminal history was detailed at length when the Department of Corrections applied to the High Court, first for an interim supervision order and then for the three-year ESO, which was granted by Justice David Gendall in December 2021.
Turi began offending with an aggravated robbery in 1994, when he would have been 14.
His convictions since then include manslaughter, kidnapping, common assault, robbery with assault, assaulting police, assault with a blunt instrument, injuring with intent, and assaulting females.
On September 20, 2012, after drinking alcohol, Turi and co-offender Desmond Leaf, both wearing Mongrel Mob regalia, entered the house of small-time drug dealer Michael Mulholland in Lower Hutt.
Turi, who had just been released from prison, assaulted Mulholland, fracturing his nose and eye socket and causing him to bleed profusely. Mulholland died from a heart attack on his driveway minutes later.
Turi was convicted of manslaughter at a trial but Leaf was acquitted.
At the time of Mulholland’s death, Turi was 31 and had already served 13 prison terms for violent offending.
* This story originally appeared in the New Zealand Herald.