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Date Produced: 1 July 2011
Title: Administration of Justice
Offence: Escape
Legislation: Common law
Mode of Trial: Indictable only
Statutory Limitations & Maximum Penalty:  At large

Aggravating Factors

  • Serving a long sentence
  • Sophisticated planning
  • Assistance from confederates outside (or inside) prison
  • Use of violence
  • Injury caused to others
  • Length of time spent at large
  • Bad conduct while at large

Mitigating Factors

  • Spontaneous or opportunistic
  • Under personal pressure to escape (compassionate reasons)
  • Short period at large
  • Surrendered to custody or made arrangements to do so

Relevant Sentencing Guidelines

R v Coughtrey [1997] 2 Cr. App. R.(S) 269 is the only guidance case

Prison breaking is a very serious offence for which a substantial sentence of imprisonment is always to be expected.

If the offender is already serving a determinate sentence, a consecutive sentence should almost always be imposed.

If the offender is serving a life sentence, the sentence for escape will necessarily be concurrent, but should be the same length as would have been appropriate if the offender had been serving a determinate sentence.

The factors to be taken into account include:

  • the nature and circumstances of the crime for which the offender was in prison
  • his conduct while in prison
  • the methods employed in effecting escape and in particular whether any violence was used
  • whether there was extensive planning and outside assistance
  • whether and how soon he surrendered himself after the escape

Relevant Sentencing Case Law

Recent Decisions reported in CSP at B 8-5.3

Examples of escaping from prison:

R v Coughtrey [1997] 2 Cr. App. R. (S) 269 (see also above for general guidance)
Guilty plea to prison breaking. Whilst serving a sentence of life imprisonment for murder, just over 2 years' imprisonment after being sentenced the appellant and another prisoner burnt through the perimeter fence with oxyacetylene equipment and scaled the outer wall by means of a ladder.  He surrendered just over a week later. Sentence reduced to fours years' imprisonment concurrent to the existing sentence.

R v Banks-Nash [2007] 1 Cr. App. R. (S) 18
Shortly before his earliest date for release on parole, the appellant escaped by walking our of an open prison and was at large for 188 days before being arrested. Sentence reduced to nine months' imprisonment for escape consecutive to existing sentence.

R v Goldring [2007] 1 Cr. App. R. (S) 49
The appellant was released from prison on day release, returned that evening and was found to be missing two hours later. Five days later he was found hiding and was arrested after a chase. Sentence of 10 months' imprisonment consecutive to existing sentence upheld.

R v Purchase [2008] 1 Cr. App. R. (S) 58
Escaped from open prison and at large for 15 days. Sentence of none months' imprisonment consecutive to existing sentence upheld. The Court observed that decided authorities divide roughly into two: cases  where a prisoner on his or her own escapes from custody and has some kind of personal pressure which persuades him or her to do so, and cases where professional criminals are assisted to escape by confederates outside or even inside the prison. The former category of case attracts sentences which are measured in months and the latter category in years

R v Brockway [2008] 2 Cr. App. R. (S) 4
Escaped from open prison and at large for 20 months. Sentence reduced to 12 months' imprisonment consecutive to existing sentence. The Court expressed doubt as to the value in mitigation of reasons for escape, in particular when it concerns the health of either a relative or of the offender himself

Examples of escaping from court:

R v Roberts [1998] 2 Cr. App. R. (S) 455
Jumped out of the dock, remained at large for 6 weeks. Sentence reduced to 9 months consecutive

R v Jarvis [2002] Cr. App. R. (S) 123
Leapt over the dock, tackled, struggle for a few minutes before being overpowered. A witness had died and the charge for which the defendant had been remanded in custody did not proceed. Sentence reduced to 6 months' imprisonment

Consider Also

Breach of Prison - Archbold 28-211

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