Man gets apology, compensation six years after losing part of skull in prison attack

Almost six years after losing part of his skull in a brutal, unprovoked prison attack, Corrections has finally formally apologised to a Far North man.

The government department has also accepted it breached the rights and privacy of Benjamin Lightbody, and finalised a financial settlement with him.

Lightbody was hit in the head with a pool ball by convicted killer Witeri Neketai in May 2013.

In the written apology from Corrections, Northern Regional Commissioner Lynette Cave says "we should have done better" and that the medical care Lightbody received after the assault was "inadequate".

She says Lightbody "should have been attended with more urgency and care".

Private prison company Serco has also accepted breaching privacy laws by "losing or destroying" video footage taken at the time of the assault.

Lightbody has had six operations to repair his shattered skull and still suffers fatigue, headaches and confusion.

He'd been in the then-Serco-run Mt Eden remand unit for less than an hour when he was attacked while waiting to use weights in an exercise yard in May, 2013.

"It's a triumph and achievement for me," he told Newshub's Investigations Reporter Michael Morrah.

"I should actually put it in a frame and hang it on a wall, because this document proves that myself, my lawyers, the media, the people that were behind me were right."

The written apology from Cave states: "I would like to formally apologise to you for the injury you sustained, and for the level of medical attention you received following the assault. We should have done better."

After the attack, Lightbody was left on the ground unresponsive. No one came to help.

CCTV footage of the moment he was hit shows Lightbody attempting to get up after three minutes. However he can't, and collapses to the floor once again.

Eventually, he staggers off camera and was later found vomiting in his cell.

It was established that when guards were told of the attack, they ate sandwiches, had a cup of tea, and finished some filing before calling an ambulance.

Lightbody says it was a total failure by Corrections' staff, saying their inaction amounted to "negligence, laziness and not doing their job".

Apart from the video of the actual attack in the yard, Corrections say other relevant CCTV footage, like how Lightbody got to his cell, was lost or destroyed.

Serco now accepts it breached Lightbody's privacy by failing to look after the remaining video.

Lightbody believes there was something more sinister at play, that the remaining video must have revealed something "horrific" and that "the whole thing was a cover-up".

A Corrections' investigation found there was a lack of staff, cameras were not being watched, the scene of the attack was not preserved and Lightbody's condition was not monitored.

Staff were ordered to undergo more training in emergency response as a result.

Corrections won't say exactly how the additional video went missing, but Cave told Newshub in a statement there's "no evidence footage was deliberately deleted by staff".

Cave also apologised to Lightbody for any loss of dignity due to Corrections' actions or inactions, saying "we regrettably failed our own high standards".

Since the attack, Lightbody has focused on his recovery, fishing and his family.

Intricate work like the jewellery design he's always been passionate about is no longer possible because of his head injury.

He believes Corrections did all it could to avoid making an apology. But now that he has it, what he cares about most is that "something like this doesn't happen to anyone else".

He also wanted to thank his lawyers, the Privacy Commission and the Human Rights Review Tribunal.