The West

Prison boss kicks out van door
Best foot forward: Corrective Services Commissioner James McMahon. Picture: Steve Ferrier/The West Australian

One kick with his non-preferred left foot was all it took for Corrective Services Commissioner James McMahon to breach the inner door of a Serco-managed prison van as he personally investigated January's Geraldton escape.

The extraordinary details of the fragility of WA's prisoner transport system, requiring sweeping upgrades to the fleet, came as Mr McMahon revealed Serco's $50 million a year court security and custodial services contract was under review.


In the days after the January 3 escape of rapist Cameron John Graham and alleged armed robber Keldon Edward Fraser from a van at Geraldton airport, Mr McMahon would only say the reasons were "mechanical and procedural".

Appearing before a parliamentary committee yesterday, Mr McMahon said he had not elaborated because he was worried prisoners would be emboldened to kick doors with guards standing in front, injuring them.

He revealed that two "tongues" on the aluminium inner door, which were supposed to be 10mm, had worn over time to 3mm and were not catching the frame.

They have since been lengthened and the doors modified to become self-locking. "Obviously there was a weakness in the inner door," Mr McMahon said.

"I personally got into the van and personally kicked the door myself - and it came open."

Mr McMahon said as of yesterday, all but two of about 40 vans had been modified and he was confident they were secure. He said a member of his department's anti-riot group, who were "fairly robust people", had been unable to kick their way out after five minutes.

Mr McMahon, a former SAS Regiment commander who took over as commissioner five months ago, said he had asked Serco to make a "kick test" part of its regular testing of vehicles.

Two weeks after the Geraldton escape, prisoner Bradley McIntosh-Narrier escaped from Serco guards at Joondalup hospital.

Two or more escapes in a service year that are deemed to be the contractor's fault constitute an "event of default", but at the department's discretion.

Mr McMahon said he decided not to axe Serco's contract, which expires in 2016, but had asked the Department of Finance to review the contract in terms of "performance and value for money". It would report back this month.

Shadow corrective services minister Paul Papalia said the full report into the Geraldton escape should be released.

The West Australian

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