Escaping Lawful Custody Laws, Offences and Defences

By Sahar Adatia.

 

It was the dramatic moment an Adelaide prisoner attempted to make a daring escape smack bang in the middle of his courtroom appearance over numerous offences, only to fail and face further charges for trying to escape lawful custody.

Daniel James Nicholson presented at a pre-sentence hearing at Christies Beach Magistrates Court in September 2020 over a series of crimes he had committed, including weapons and driving offences.

When he was advised he would remain in custody with his bail revoked, things took a violent turn inside the Adelaide courtroom.

Infuriated by the outcome, the 35-year-old, believed to be under the influence of drugs, flew into a rage and vanquished two officers before launching himself over the dock.

Initially, Mr Nicholson managed to land on the bar table in an open area of the court, stumbling before stepping over a partition and landing on his knees.

But this momentary breakout didn’t last long as the police prosecutor managed to swiftly tackle the criminal from the table, throwing him onto the floor in an effort to hinder the attempted escape.

Nevertheless, Mr Nicholson managed to break free from the prosecutor, leaving the courtroom chaos to continue as officers tried to seize the fleeing man in the vicious struggle.

But as it turned out, within a matter of moments, the man was once again restrained by the very officer he had previously fought off.

Mr Nicholson was then dragged backwards before eventually being subdued by the officers.

The vicious brawl was witnessed in its entirety by Mr Nicholson’s lawyer and family members, including his son, while almost a year later, extraordinary footage has since emerged of the tumultuous escape attempt.

  

Defence Lawyer Advises Court Mr Nicholson Was Under the Influence of Methamphetamine During Attempted Escape and has “Longstanding Issue with Illicit Drug Use”

Responding to Mr Nicholson’s unlawful conduct, the man’s lawyer said his client had been under the influence of methamphetamine that day and had a “longstanding issue with illicit drug use”.

He added that Mr Nicholson, upon learning his bail has been repealed, simply “freaked out” and that he was “genuinely remorseful for his behaviour”.

Nevertheless, prosecutors were not convinced and urged the judge to keep the man behind bars.

Mr Nicholson was eventually taken back to his cell after the anarchic scenes and was charged with escaping custody.

He was also charged with recklessly causing harm to the sheriff’s officers.

Two sheriff’s officers were injured in the violent scuffle.

One suffered a broken foot, leaving him forced to wear a moon boot for eight weeks.

Mr Nicholson is a father of four.

He has been behind bars ever since the incident last year and is due to be sentenced next month for his string of offences.

Escaping Lawful Custody Laws, Offences and Defences in NSW

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

In fact, much like Mr Nicholson, even simply attempting to escape lawful custody can leave you facing severe penalties.

In NSW, section 310D of the Crimes Act 1900 outlines the offence and legal consequences of escaping lawful custody.

Specifically, section 310D states that it is against the law to either escape lawful custody or simply try to escape lawful custody.

Additionally, it is 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.

For any of the aforementioned offences of escaping lawful custody, there is a maximum penalty in place of 10 years in jail.

Defences to this charge include duress, necessity, mental health defences where you are either incapable of controlling your conduct or incapable of understanding the rightness or wrongness of your actions. Self-defence can also be available as a defence if the facts of the case allow.

Questions on this topic? Get in touch with our Sydney based criminal lawyers today.

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