Five prisoners sentenced over rooftop smoking ban protest

WHEN a state-wide smoking ban hit Queensland prisons, it wasn't long before nicotine-starved inmates were climbing the walls.

Within a day of the ban, five inmates clambered onto the roof of the Southern Queensland Correctional Centre at Gatton in protest.

The rooftop protest lasted 12 hours before the prisoners came back down, voluntarily.

At Ipswich District Court this week, the five men involved - Bruce Dyball, Eric Hall, Michael Hall, Neil Johnson and Jamie Williams - pleaded guilty to unlawful assembly.

Crown prosecutor Dzenita Balic said the inmates' actions had undermined security at the correctional centre.

Ms Balic said prisoners were simply not allowed to take matters into their own hands if they had a grievance within the prison system.

She said the men were all re-offenders - most with lengthy histories - and should have known better.

"As prison inmates, there are rules which these men are expected to abide," she said.

"Their freedoms have been restricted as a result of crimes committed in the community."

Ms Balic said the protest was a complete overreaction and achieved nothing in the end.

To gain access to the roof the men, aged 21 to 33, scaled a cage enclosure that was adjoined to one of the buildings.

Once back on the ground, they were put in solitary confinement for about four months.

Defence barrister Geoff Seaholme said the protest was conducted without any violence and without any damage to property or injury to anyone.

The men received various sentences with consideration to their current prison terms and criminal history.

A spokesperson from Queensland Corrective Services said no major incidents, attributable to the smoking ban, had occurred at SQCC since the rooftop protest in May.

"Staff and prisoners have positively engaged in the smoking cessation program with consistently high levels of participation," the spokesperson said.

Sentences:

  • Bruce Dyball, 25: Six months imprisonment suspended after two months with an operational period of 18 months.
  • Eric Hall, 29: Six months imprisonment with a parole release date of December 14.
  • Michael Hall, 27: Six months imprisonment suspended from February 23, 2015.
  • Neil Johnson, 33: Six months imprisonment with a parole eligibility of December 13, 2014.
  • Jamie Williams, 21: Three months suspended sentence with an operational period of 12 months.


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