Inmate in strife after beer dash

AN inmate who made a mockery of the prison system by escaping from custody to go to the bottle shop has appeared in Hervey Bay Magistrates Court.

Steven Darrell Maher said he just wanted "a night off" when he and a fellow inmate escaped from a prison work camp at Blackall and walked 10km to the nearest bottle shop.

They bought several beers to drink and were later found by police in the grounds of the local school, where they were arrested and taken back into custody.

Maher, 39, pleaded guilty to escaping from lawful custody.

He was serving a six-month sentence at Capricornia Correctional Centre in Rockhampton for a drink-driving offence.

It was more than five months into his sentence when Maher decided he wanted a beer and simply "walked away" from the work camp on October 29.

Prosecutor Senior Constable Jeanette Grigoris said Maher's punishment should serve as a deterrent for other offenders with custodial sentences. It would also send a message to the public.

According to lawyer John Milburn, Maher decided to leave the work camp after being taunted by other inmates for trying to ingratiate himself with the guards.

He said this brought back memories for Maher of being teased as a child and left him feeling angry and in need of a drink.

"He just simply went and he was having a night off," Mr Milburn said. He added that Maher had always planned to return to the camp later on.

"It's just stupidity really," Magistrate Graeme Tatnell said.

"In relation to escape from custody, it would have to be the lowest on the scale," Mr Tatnell said.

"But I can't make it appear that it's okay to just walk out of a prison camp, go and have some drinks and just come back."

Maher, who works as a concreter in Mackay, was sentenced to four months' jail wholly suspended, so he walked from the court a free man.



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