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Escape From Custody (Qld)

In Queensland, there are several offences relating to escaping from lawful custody. These offences are set out in the Crimes Act 1899. Escaping from custody or helping someone to do so is a serious offence that may attract a lengthy term of imprisonment. This page looks at escape from custody offences in Queensland.

What amounts to lawful custody?

In order for an accused to be found guilty of escaping from lawful custody, a court must be satisfied that the custody was lawful. A person is in lawful custody if they have been arrested and detained in a way that is authorized by law, including:

  • Where a person has been arrested and is in the custody of the police – such as while being transported to a watch house or correctional facility or while in custody at a watch house;
  • Where a person has been sentenced to or remanded in custody or detention.

What amounts to escape?

In order for a person to be found guilty of escaping from lawful custody, a court must be satisfied that their actions amounted to an escape. A person escapes if they gain freedom from the person or place that was restricting their freedom. The court must be satisfied that the accused was aware that they were not free to leave and that they consciously and deliberately withdrew from that custody.

The offence of escape from custody

Under section 142 of the Criminal Code 1899, a person who escapes from lawful custody is guilty of a crime that is punishable by up to seven years imprisonment.

The offence of aiding person to escape from custody

Under section 141 of the Criminal Code 1899, a person commits an offence if they:

  • Aid another person to escape lawful custody or attempt to do so;
  • Convey anything to a person who is in lawful custody with the intention of aiding them to escape from lawful custody;
  • Free a person from lawful custody without authority.

This offence is also publishable by up to seven years imprisonment.

The offence of permitting escape

Under section 143 of the Criminal Code 1899, a person who is responsible for keeping another person in lawful custody and permits them to escape is guilty of a crime and liable to up to seven years imprisonment.


The escape from custody offences set out above are indictable offences that may be heard summarily where the prosecution elects this. This means that ordinarily, a charge of escape lawful custody with be dealt with on indictment in the District Court, but if the prosecution chooses for the matter to be heard by a magistrate, it will be heard in the Magistrates Court (or in the Children’s Court, if the accused is under 18).

Under section 552A of the Criminal Code 1899, an escape from custody offence must be heard summarily if the prosecution elects this.

If a criminal matter is heard in the District Court, it will first need to go through a number of procedural stages in the Magistrates Court, including a committal hearing.

Summary offence of harbouring escaped prisoners

Under section 144 of the Criminal Code 1899, a person who harbours, maintains, or employs another person knowing that the other person has escaped from lawful custody is guilty of a crime punishable by up to two years imprisonment.

This is a summary offence and is finalized in the Magistrates Court.

Pleading guilty to escape from custody offences

If a person is charged with an escape from custody offence, there are a number of things to consider before pleading guilty. Firstly, they should consider whether all the elements of the offence can be proven. They should then consider whether there is any legal defence that applies.

If a person pleads guilty to escape from custody, they should do so with legal representation. The court will impose a sentence taking into consideration the circumstances of the offence and the circumstances of the offender, including their criminal history and any factors that mitigate or extenuate the seriousness of the offence.

Defences to escape from custody offences

A person charged with escape from custody may have alegal defence available to them. This may include:

  • That their actions did not amount to escape;
  • That they were not in lawful custody.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

Fernanda Dahlstrom

This article was written by Fernanda Dahlstrom

Fernanda Dahlstrom has a Bachelor of Laws, a Bachelor of Arts and a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice. She has also completed a Master’s in Writing and Literature. Fernanda practised law for eight years, working in criminal defence, child protection and domestic violence law in the Northern Territory and in family law in Queensland.

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