Qld prison rioter faces deportation to NZ

Cheryl Goodenough
Alo Fesola'i and other inmates attacked corrective services officers at a Queensland jail

A Queensland man who armed himself with a broomstick during a three-hour prison riot will be released on parole after more than 13 months in custody.

Alo Fesola'i and eight inmates attacked corrective services officers attempting to stop a prisoner from trying to kill himself in Brisbane's Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre in July last year, a court has heard.

The riot must have been terrifying for the prison officers sent to quell the incident, Brisbane District Court Judge David Reid said in sentencing Fesola'i on Thursday.

The extent of Fesola'i's involvement in the riot was not known because security cameras were damaged or covered, but it was at a lower level than other inmates.

He did arm himself with a broomstick.

"I doubt that you were the principle organiser of offending," Judge Reid told Fesola'i.

"You were however observed smashing some windows, throwing objects at the officer's station and attempting to prise open security grilles in the unit."

Fesola'i pleaded guilty to taking part in the riot and to a separate charge of using a small pocket knife to rob a man of his phone in the Brisbane CBD on April 27, 2019.

It was that charge that landed him in jail.

Judge Reid said Fesola'i had an extensive criminal history, but few offences were violent.

"You might be considered more of a real nuisance than a real danger," he told Fesola'i.

The 27-year-old was born in New Zealand and could have his Australian visa cancelled at the minister's discretion.

But the court heard he has no relatives in New Zealand.

He was raised by his parents - who now live in American Samoa - until he was six years old. Then by his grandmother in Samoa until he was 13.

Living in Australia since 2005, his life has been "beset by difficulties", Judge Reid said.

But deporting Fesola'i to New Zealand where he had no connections would be a burden that "might lead to a significant lapse" in Fesola's coping ability.

Judge Reid sentenced Fesola'i to one year and 10 months in jail for the armed robbery. He was handed a cumulative sentence of 14 months in prison for the aggravated riot.

Judge Reid ordered Fesola'i be released on parole immediately after serving more than 13 months in pre-sentence custody.

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