The Law on Escaping Lawful Custody in NSW

Poppy Morandin.

 

Police have charged a 29-year-old minimum-security inmate after he managed to escape from Goulburn Correctional Centre.

Ryan Wennekes had been participating in work actives when he went missing at around 1:30pm in the afternoon.

The prison worksite was behind the main building, with minimum supervision observing the inmates.

He was arrested a few hours later by officers from The Hume Police District while waiting for a train at Goulburn Railway Station at 7:30pm.

It is alleged that during this time Wennekes tried to steal a car with someone inside and assaulted the driver.

He was subsequently taken to Goulburn Police Station where he was charged with three offences, including inmate escape from lawful custody, attempt to unlawfully take motor vehicle with person in it and assault with intent to take/drive motor vehicle.

Following news of the jail break, the community of Goulburn went into high alert with police searching by foot for hours after Wennekes went missing.

Helicopters were called into the search, as well as multiple patrol cars.

“A police officer went into my neighbour’s yard and started looking around there because there’s lots of little hidey holes, and then they went up and down the fence-line having a look under shrubs,” commented one resident.

Wennekes is currently serving a sentence for domestic violence offences, with Correctional Services confirming that his security level will be increased upon his return to the facility.

There have been 181 recorded incidents of escape custody over the 12 months to March 2021, noting rates have remained stable over the last 24 months.

In NSW, inmates entering custody are assigned initial security classifications based on a range of factors including the seriousness of the offence, length of sentence and any previous criminal or custodial history.

There are seven categories for males, with range from ‘Category AA’, the highest security classification, down to ‘Category C3’:

  • Category AA, A1, A2 (maximum security),
  • Category B (medium security),
  • Category C1, C2, C3 (minimum security).

Category AA inmates are those who represent a ‘special risk’ to national security.

This may be for reasons such as that they may engage in or incite other persons to engage in terrorist activities.

This category of inmates should at all times be confined in special facilities with secure physical barriers that include towers or electronic surveillance equipment.

Category C3 inmates, however, present a low risk, and do not need to be confined by physical barriers or be supervised.

Security classification is the principal factor used to determine an inmate’s placement.

An inmate’s classification must be reviewed at least every 12 months, or as often as the Commissioner determines, pursuant to regulation 11 of the Crimes (Administration of Sentences) Regulation 2014.

The Law on Escaping Lawful Custody in NSW

Pursuant to section 310D of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), it is an offence to escape lawful custody.

This includes those who escape or attempt to escape from lawful custody, or those who having been temporarily released from lawful custody and fail to return at the end of the time for which the inmate has been released.

The maximum penalty applicable is 10 years in jail.

If an inmate is yet to be sentenced for previous matters, the court must set the sentence for “non-escape” offences first so that “escape” offences will be cumulative on them, pursuant to section 57(1A) of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999 (NSW).

Section 57(2) provides that where an offender is an “inmate of a correctional centre” and commits an offence “involving escape”, the sentence is to be served consecutively.

Questions on the law? contact our office to speak with an experienced criminal lawyer Sydney based today.

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