What the Law Says if You Attempt to Help Someone Escape the Country to Avoid Attending Court

Sahar Adatia and Jimmy Singh.

 

A mother from central Queensland has been sentenced to four years behind bars for her role in helping her son escape Australia by yacht so that he could side-step facing court over serious drug trafficking charges.

Elizabeth Turner faced the District Court in Brisbane via video link from Townsville Women’s Correctional Centre on Tuesday 23 February 2021 during which she was handed down her sentence.

The 67-year-old mother was found guilty by a jury at her trial in November 2020 of one count of attempting to pervert the course of justice and three counts of giving a false testimony, however, her sentencing was deferred due to her appeal for a medical and psychological examination.

Mrs Turner’s son, Markis Turner, a former Mackay businessman, was arrested in 2011 after he was suspected of directing a cocaine importation syndicate that operated internationally.

In 2015, in the aftermath of the offending, Mrs Turner assisted her son in escaping the country by what police described as “purchasing and preparing a yacht for him to flee on” to the Philippines, during which time he was on bail.

She also aided him in relocating his children to Poland where their mother resided.

Later in 2015, about a month prior to which Mr Turner’s trial was supposed to begin, the businessman disappeared.

At the time, Mrs Turner was tied to a $450,000 bail surety, however, around the same time as her son vanished, went on a road trip to Western Australia in the company of her husband.

She travelled without a mobile phone.

In 2016, Mrs Turner faced the Supreme Court on a hearing into her surety requirements.

There, she conveyed to the court that she believed her son had taken his own life as she was aware that his mental health was diminishing.

However, prosecutors alleged the suicide spiel was fabricated so Mr Turner could avoid imminent jail time, while she could keep the surety money, and life insurance policy of $1m could be cashed in.

Indeed, in September 2017, Mr Turner was located by authorities on a yacht in the Philippines, where he was detained.

Ultimately, given the allegations of secret codes, a phony suicide, and schemes to redeem life insurance, the jury of eight women and four men found the mother guilty of assisting her fugitive son escape the country to avoid major drug charges.

 

Judge Affirms Mother’s Conduct as “Designed to Avoid a Significant Financial Loss” and “Son’s Recapture”

Mrs Turner’s wrongdoings were condemned by Judge Suzanne Sheridan, and as her sentence was handed, described them as “very serious” and worthy of a punishment that would act as a deterrent to the broader community.

“It requires a punishment which is a deterrent to you and a deterrent to the community at large,” Judge Sheridan said.

“The sentencing must deter people from helping those on bail escape.”

Judge Sheridan also hailed Mrs Turner’s conduct as both “designed to avoid a significant financial loss of $450,000” and designed to avoid her “son’s recapture”.

“There is no doubt that the seriousness of your offending meant that no sentence other than imprisonment would be appropriate,” Judge Sheridan said.

Mrs Turner has presently served around 100 days in custody.

After two years of serving her sentence, she will be eligible for parole.

 

Law on Perverting the Course of Justice in NSW

Put simply, perverting the course of justice refers to any act or omission that obstructs, prevents, perverts, or defeats the course of justice or the administration of the law.

This can be carried out in a number of different ways and includes making false statements to the police or a court under oath.

Other examples of conduct that may constitute perverting the course of justice include destroying or concealing evidence, encouraging a person to plead guilty to a crime they did not commit, bribing a police officer, requesting somebody to provide a false alibi, even asking a doctor to write a false medical certificate to a patient.

NSW Penalties for Perverting the Course of Justice

In NSW, the offence of perverting the course of justice is taken very seriously and thus carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in jail.

This is set out in section 319 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).

It should be noted that merely attempting to pervert the course of justice can result in a person being guilty of an offence.

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