Serco prison attack victim speaks out

Serco prison attack victim speaks out

Serco is the private company contracted to run some of our prisons, including Mt Eden, where its contract has been suspended while allegations of mismanagement are investigated.

We've all heard the headlines – allegations of prisoners fighting and getting seriously hurt in a Serco-run jail.

Until now though, the victims of those assaults have not spoken out.

One of those victims came to Story, to tell us exactly what happened to him in Mt Eden – something that Serco has never said sorry for.

"I was hit in the back of the head, below my right temple, in a part of the big part of the skull, and there was a lot of bleeding on my brain," says Benjamin Lightbody.

Lightbody should be graduating from a business management degree and living with his partner, Sammy, and their little girl. Instead he's been fighting for his life and the chance to tell his story.

He was viciously attacked two years ago while on remand in the Serco-run Mt Eden Prison. He had allegedly breached a protection order.

"He crept up behind me low, and at the last minute just smashed me in the back of the head and I just dropped."

His attacker was Witeri Ahomiro, a kickboxer inside on preventive detention for killing a man with a king hit in 2011.

"I was waiting for my turn on the weights for about five, 10, 15 minutes. Then I was smashed in the back of the head for no reason, and that's all I can really remember. The rest is video footage."

Ahomiro used a pool ball in the attack. Corrections refused to release that CCTV footage of the attack to Story, but Lightbody has seen it.

"I was on the ground unconscious for about 10 or 20 minutes, and the guy that hit me turned me over and rolled me over to see if I was alive. I believe his intention was to kill me because he hit me right behind the temple.

"No one from Serco came. It was in front of the main camera."

He says his cellmate saved his life.

"This cellmate I had never met, he couldn't wake me for dinner. If it wasn't for him I would have just died overnight."

He was taken to the prison sick bay then to hospital.

"I was on life support."

Doctors say he's lost 31 percent of his brain function as a result.

Partner Sammy says Serco has so much to answer for.

The attack happened on a Wednesday. She wasn't told until Friday, despite talking to prison staff on the Thursday.

Lightbody hasn't been an angel. He did two years for a violent assault as a 16-year-old and had issues with alcohol. But he's been crime-free since 2007, studying and trying to make good.

"I shouldn't be alive but I am, either to tell this story or to make some changes."

He says the Serco-run prison turned a blind eye to the assault. He wants everyone to know how dangerous it is in Mt Eden Prison.

His attacker got seven years for the assault.

Now his dreams of running his own jewellery shop are on hold indefinitely. His brain injury is rated as severe.

He says the prison let him down. He's had no apology, no compensation – nothing. He'd now like what happened to be acknowledged formally.

Unsurprisingly there's no official apology, but Corrections says: "There was a thorough investigation into the assault of Mr Lightbody, which identified a number of failings on Serco's part."

It goes on to say that the year the assault happened, Corrections fined Serco the amount $163,822.78.

This is what Serco had to say for itself: "All custodial staff underwent refresher training on first response to health and other emergency incidents.

"Policies and procedures were reviewed and updated, and a member of staff has since been dismissed."