Escape clause: Community put at risk by security breach - whistleblower

THE Corrective Services chief has refuted claims the Tamworth community is at risk of dangerous prisoners escaping because of unsafe practices at a court cell complex.

The Leader received a letter detailing the procedures in place, highlighting concerns over a recent escape after a cell door was left unsecured.

In December, The Leader exclusively revealed a dangerous prisoner on remand had escaped from the Tamworth Court Cell Complex after fronting court, fleeing authorities and scaling a wall before hiding out in East Tamworth.

A Corrective Services officer raised the alarm and dozens of police officers swooped on Carthage St, the railway line and Griffin Ave in search of Jonathon Ian Haines, 19, before he was found hiding in a shed of a backyard on December 6.

Haines is on remand, awaiting trial for the alleged sexual assault of an elderly lady in South Tamworth, and was jailed over the escape for two years. The court found the cell door was not secured, allowing Haines to put his hands through a utility slot, unlock the door and walk 

out of the van dock area, after a door had been propped open.

The anonymous informant detailed officers were only following the normal routine on the day.

“They inform me, as a knee-jerk reaction, their manager of security has now placed an interim order out on how prisoners are to be loaded and unloaded,” it read.

“CS Officers inform me that by following common practice on this day they will now be used as a scape goat by Corrective Services for the embarrassing incident to them.”

The informant said the incident highlight the fact that it could “have ended with people in the community seriously injured.”

“Not to have procedures in place for staff to follow in such a dangerous occupation is absurd and it has taken such a serious incident for the manager of Tamworth Gaol to act,” it read.

When questioned, Corrective Services issued a statement citing “all security concerns raised regarding Tamworth Court cells have been addressed by management,” it said.

“No positions have been lost from the Tamworth Court/Security Escort Unit. The unit has additional staffing resources available as required.”

A spokesperson said routines are carried out in consultation with the Prison Officers Vocational Branch staff which has input into staffing.

“Since implementing this practice at Tamworth, there have not been any major issues raised,” the statement read.

Corrective Services Commissioner Peter Severin made it clear escapes are unacceptable and the particular incident in question is under investigation.

“CSNSW cannot condone poor practice and action will be taken as required,” a statement read.

“CSNSW Investigations Unit is assessing the incident and will refer their findings to the Professional Standards Committee.”

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