Cops rob prisoners of any chance at courtroom escape
A SYSTEM to stop prisoners escaping from courtrooms is being trialled on the Sunshine Coast after a defendant stripped his clothes off, climbed over a 2.5m high glass barrier and ran away last year.
Prisoners in custody at the Maroochydore watch house now appear in court by videolink from an interview room inside the station instead of being taken to the courtroom, in a three-month pilot program that could be rolled out in other areas across the state if successful.
Dean Andrew Kenning's "nudie run" was one of two escapes from Maroochydore courtrooms last year.
A police officer received a head injury during Kenning's escape in October, he was arrested later that night in Mooloolaba.
Bradley James Friedrichs jumped the perspex dock barrier in April, escaping for a short time before police caught him on Sixth Ave, Cotton Tree.
In March Kenning was sentenced to 12 months in prison for escaping lawful custody, and Friedrichs was ordered to serve three months in jail on the same charge.
Organisational Capability Command acting inspector Chris Sedl said the aim was to make the court precinct a safer place.
"It's an issue to help cover the risk of injury to court house staff, the police and members of the public," he said.
"It's something to help the (police) service and the courts and it will be really good to see how it runs across the next three months."
Maroochydore watch house officer-in-charge Gavin McKillop said minimising the movement of prisoners would help with time management as well as security.
But solicitor Nathan Turner said there was a risk defendants appearing by videolink might not truly appreciate what was going on tin the courtroom.
"I'm always in favour of having a defendant, whether they're in custody or on bail, being in the courtroom when they're being deal with," he said.
"Because they can hear clearly what's going on and see body language.
"They can also communicate with their solicitor more clearly."
He said it was much more difficult to ask a client confidential questions during court proceedings when the a defendant was on a videolink rather than in the courtroom.
"There's a real risk that a client won't be afforded the confidentiality that they should be afforded when they are receiving legal advice," he said.
The system being used is the same as the one that allows prisoners to make appearances in court by videolink from jails, instead of travelling from as far away as Brisbane.
The trial has been running for just two weeks but Senior Sergeant McKillop said so far, it was going well, and prisoners in the watch house could still be brought to court in person if required.