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Serco contract can be broken
Illustration: The West Australian

The escape of three prisoners from Serco guards' custody in the past month could enable the WA Government to break its $50 million-a-year prisoner transport contract with the company.

A clause in WA's court security and custodial services contract says the escape of two or more prisoners in a service year that are deemed to be the contractor's fault constitute an "event of default".

Serco's contract identifies 10 other serious incidents that can trigger an "event of default", including a death in custody and if the contractor goes bankrupt.

The escapes, which are still being investigated by Serco and the Government, have prompted the State Opposition and unions to call for a public inquiry into Serco's handling of the contract.

Despite the "event of default" clause, the Department of Corrective Services said it had discretion when choosing the most appropriate response to a breach under the contract.

"The response would take into consideration investigation recommendations, implemented improvements to fleet and operational procedures, payment of abatement amounts," a spokeswoman said.

The escapes are under investigation, but Corrective Services Minister Joe Francis told The West Australian he had no intention of cancelling the contract. "The public safety issues raised by the escapes in Geraldton and Joondalup were dealt with immediately through changes to security procedures," he said.

Shadow corrective services minister Paul Papalia said there was disquiet about the secrecy surrounding the contract.

Maximum security prisoners Cameron John Graham and Kelden Edward Fraser escaped from a prison van at Geraldton airport on January 3. Two weeks later remand prisoner Bradley McIntosh-Narrier escaped from Serco guards at Joondalup hospital.

The department's Adult Custodial Rule 18 lists criteria that a prisoner must meet to be granted a temporary transfer for visits, including that the type and circumstances of offences must be considered and, if applicable, an assessment of any potentially negative public reaction made and taken into account.