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Van escapes costs Serco $700,000
Van escapes costs Serco $700,000

Update: Private firm Serco, which runs WA’s prisoner transport services, will pay more than $723,000 after two maximum security prisoners escaped from one of its vans at Geraldton airport last month.

Serco said tonight it would pay the State $242,814 for the escape and $185,802 for the cost of manhunt to recapture the fugitives, as well as spending $295,000 to fix mechanical faults in its prison vans.

Rapist Cameron John Graham and alleged armed robber Kelden Edward Fraser were being transferred from Greenough Regional Prison to Perth when they escaped, stole a hire car and went on the run for 36 hours on January 3.

Corrective Services Commissioner James McMahon said today the van’s CCTV system, which would have captured how the pair broke out of the van, had not recorded the incident.

“It was on but the recording device failed,” he said.

When asked if he could rule out whether the CCTV system had been interfered with, Mr McMahon would only say that the issue would be addressed in an executive summary he was preparing for Corrective Services Minister Joe Francis.

Serco said tonight the pod cameras and monitors in the cab were working as normal on the day of the escape and that the recording devices were kept in a secure cabinet in the van, which was not accessible by Serco officers.

“The devices are downloaded and maintained by a third party for the Department of Corrective Services. Serco has no access,” a spokesman said.

The prison van fleet was completely overhauled in 2010 after the death of Aboriginal elder Mr Ward who died being transferred in a prison van without air-conditioning.

Mr McMahon, who received the Department of Corrective Service’s report into its investigation of the escape yesterday, said the main reason for the escape was a structural defect of the inner door.

A lock on the inner door of the prison van pod Graham and Fraser were sharing did not click in properly.

Mr McMahon also confirmed the two Serco guards, who have been cleared by their employer of any wrongdoing, opened the outer pod door to increase ventilation in the van.

Serco said in a statement tonight that the investigations by the company and the Department of Corrective Services found faults in one type of the vans in its fleet.

The company said these faults existed when Serco took over responsibility for the vans in August 2011 but were not identified before the escape.

Serco Asia-Pacific chief executive Mark Irwin said the company failed to identify a fault in the van which allowed the escape to happen.

“This fault was not identified in our due diligence checks when we purchased the vehicles from the State, nor in any subsequent checks. For this we take full responsibility,” he said.

“I would like to apologise to the public, and particularly to victims of crime, who have a right to expect that prisoners remain secure and in custody.”

Shadow corrective services minister Paul Papalia said the lack of CCTV vision could only have been because it had been wiped or not turned on.

He said it was a massive failure and strengthened the case for a public inquiry into the operation of WA’s court security and custodial services contract.

The West Australian

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