A man in prison for a lengthy sentence faced an “almost Biblical level of temptation” to jump into his then-fiancé’s stolen car during last year’s dramatic prison break, his barrister has said.
Lila Rose Mary Walto has already been sentenced to six-and-a-half years’ jail over the incident on 9 July 2021, but the sentence hearing for her ex-partner Kane Quinn, whom she broke out of custody, began in the ACT Magistrates Court on Wednesday (14 September).
Walto had used a stolen Jeep to ram a Corrective Services car multiple times through the middle of Canberra to free Quinn while he was being transported to hospital from jail that afternoon.
The incident was captured on film and footage screened to the court showed Walto smashing the Jeep into the smaller Corrective Services car before Quinn got out, ran away, turned around, dodged an officer and jumped into the Jeep when Walto screamed at him.
Barrister Stephen Robinson described the offence as an “entirely opportunistic escape” as far as his client was concerned.
“The offender had no idea of Ms Walto’s plans, and when the accident happened, he was genuinely scared that people were after him,” he said, noting the footage showed his client running away from the Jeep at first, not towards it.
He said Quinn spent about 12 hours at large, conceding he could have turned himself in during that time.
“He could have got in the car and said to Ms Walto, ‘What are you doing? Drive me to the nearest police station’,” Magistrate Louise Taylor remarked. She said once the opportunity presented itself, he took advantage of it.
Quinn, also known as Kane McDowall, had been in custody since 2015, serving a lengthy sentence for violent offending that ends in 2029, although he could apply for parole in 2024.
According to court documents, Corrective Services had been told drugs had been hidden at Canberra Hospital and Quinn, who was in the Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC), would try to collect them. A suspicious package was later found in the hospital.
On 9 July last year, Quinn told prison staff he’d swallowed a battery so three Corrective officers left to take him to hospital in a Toyota Camry at about 3:30 pm.
Meanwhile, Walto had stolen a Jeep Wrangler from a Fyshwick car dealership that morning, then used the Jeep to crash into the Camry repeatedly.
The Correctives staff thought she was trying to get Quinn and tried to evade her, but she followed and continued ramming the car, despite passing heavy traffic.
While it was happening, Quinn was shouting, “They’re trying to kill me”, “I don’t want to get shot, f-k”, and “Don’t give me the f-k over”.
The Camry was severely damaged and came to a stop in Oxley Street, Kingston, after which the officers and Quinn got out while the latter said, “Hurry up, man, they’re going to – trying to, like, kill me”.
Walto shouted at him to get into the Jeep; he evaded an officer and jumped inside.
Police were told the pair were hiding in a house on Frater Crescent in Lyneham. They went to the address with negotiators and tactical response that night.
Walto left the house, but police heard Quinn shout, “I’m not coming out”. They also heard the sound of power tools coming from inside a crawlspace. He eventually left after prolonged negotiations.
The court heard police learned he was at the house at about 8 pm that night when they received a tip-off.
Mr Robinson said his client had made a split-second decision during a highly charged, emotional situation while he was “scared for his life” as he thought people were trying to kill him.
He argued there was a stark contrast between the actions of 30-year-old Quinn and 29-year-old Walto. Prosecutor Margaret Smith agreed their offences were distinct, but she said the offence of escaping custody, which Quinn pleaded guilty to was, in essence, an offence against the proper administration of criminal justice.
She also argued that his handcuffs were partially removed when Quinn was arrested that night, indicating he didn’t want to hand himself in.
Magistrate Taylor will sentence Quinn on 9 November.