Escaping Lawful Custody in NSW

Sahar Adatia.

For more than 12 years, one of the country’s most-wanted fugitives was on the run, with police searching for the man since February 2010 after he failed to appear at the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on conspiracy to murder charges.

That is, until last month, when the criminal was finally captured.

Graham Gene Potter was arrested on Monday 20th February 2022 in the small Far North Queensland mountain township of Ravenshoe, about a two-hour drive south-west of Cairns, where he had spent most of the last decade keeping a low profile and living in filthy conditions in a shack.

According to police in Far North Queensland, over the years, several sightings of the now 64-year-old man had been made, with Acting Detective Inspector Kevin Goan advising local police had been working in conjunction with Victorian authorities for numerous years, probing the sightings across the area.

However, it was only when police were tipped off to Mr Potter’s presence at the Ravenshoe residence that they were able to make a move.

“As a result of that collaboration, detectives were advised that a person fitting Potter’s description could possibly be in attendance at the residence at Ravenshoe,” Inspector Goan said.

When officers arrived at the scene, it is understood Mr Potter gave a pseudonym of “Josh Lawson”.

The man was arrested, which was captured in dramatic vision by Queensland Police.

He was then taken to Mareeba Police Station where biometric examination was undertaken and confirmed the fugitive’s identity.

Not long after, police from Victoria were advised to be en route to the Tablelands and expected to apply for extradition to take Mr Potter into custody.

The following day, Mr Potter faced Atherton Magistrates’ Court via video link, where no application for bail was made.

He was later released into the custody of Victoria Police and given notice to face Melbourne Magistrates’ Court over the matter.

It is understood a woman who is believed to have been residing with Mr Potter in the house was found but was not taken into custody.

How Mr Potter Evaded Capture for More than A Decade

It is understood Mr Potter had been residing in the Ravenshoe area for the past 12 years, during which time he was known to disguise himself with wigs and fat suits.

The man had also maintained a low profile, and on occasions, integrated with the people around him.

In fact, there was a $100,000 reward for information on his whereabouts.

According to Inspector Goan, prior to the arrest, the man had been last spotted in Tully.

“His last credible sighting was in Tully in 2010 [and] he avoided capture at that time,” Inspector Goan said.

“He’s certainly been keeping a low profile. He has assimilated, at some points, within the community.”

Nevertheless, residents in the quiet mountain village said they had never seen Mr Potter, despite the town having a small population of 1,000.

It is also understood the house Mr Potter stayed in was completely disguised by dense banana trees until very recently when the local council had ordered they be severed due to complaints about rats.

Escaping Lawful Custody in NSW

As most would surmise, it is a criminal offence to escape lawful custody.

In fact, merely trying to escape lawful custody can leave you facing harsh penalties.

In NSW, section 310D of the Crimes Act 1900 outlines the offence of escaping lawful custody, making clear that is against the law to both escape lawful custody or simply attempt to.

As per section 310D, these crimes are punishable with up to 10 years behind bars.

It is worth noting that according to this section, it is also against the law to fail to return to lawful custody at the end of the time for which you have been released where you have been temporarily released. The same maximum penalty applies. Importantly, when a court imposes a sentence, the court will make the escape custody offence imprisonment consecutive with the non-escape custody offence, according to section 57(1A) and (2) Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999 (NSW).

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