Courtroom sprinter doesn’t get far

June 21, 2017 | By More

A woman sprinted from the dock as she was being jailed in the Christchurch District Court and briefly made it outside the Court House before recaptured by a Court Security Officer.

Nikita Chela McCausland’s bid for freedom happened just as she realised Judge Gary McAskill was not going to grant her home detention.

The 29-year-old mother of a three-year-old handed her keys to a woman supporter standing just behind the dock, as though she was accepting the 25-month jail term the judge was imposing.

But seconds later, she bolted out through the door of the ground floor courtroom and into the corridor.

Then, inexplicably she turned left into the court foyer instead of going out through the main doors.

At the secure staff doorway she had a stroke of luck, “ghosting” through the door as a staffer was using it and getting into the courtyard area between the Court House buildings and the Avon Riverbank.

A woman Court Security Officer – the same one who waded into an assault on a witness in the High Court recently – captured her there and she was frog-marched back to the Court House by officers and police.

“I was lucky she tripped,” said the security officer, who was sporting a least one scrape on her bare arm.

McCausland was then put into the more secure dock for people in custody so that Judge MacAskill could complete the sentencing.

Defence counsel Sunny Teki-Clark said she wanted to say a few words to the court, presumably an apology, but Judge MacAskill ruled it out. “I don’t think that’s proper. She is likely to be facing a charge,” he explained.

Crown prosecutor Chris Bernhardt confirmed that the police or Crown would now consider laying a charge of escaping.

McCausland has a long history of offending and was facing sentencing for perverting the course of justice for getting another woman to do her community work, as well as receiving two stolen laptops, possession of firearm ammunition, possession of a pipe for smoking methamphetamine, and dangerous driving.

Mr Teki-Clark said McCausland was turning her life around. She was distancing herself from family members and associates who had led her into a criminal lifestyle. She was training in beauty therapy and wanted to open a nail salon. He urged that home detention be granted.

Mr Bernhardt said she showed an “entrenched disregard for court orders” and numerous community-based sentences had failed to curb her offending.

Judge MacAskill said she had been sentenced to 100 hours of community work for two charges of driving while suspended. She then got another woman to sign in as her and do two days of the sentence and had delivered the woman to the work centre herself. Because of her “improved attendance” she was then convicted and discharged on a charge of breaching the sentence.

Judge MacAskill said that meant she had succeeded in perverting the course of justice, and it was a serious matter.

She had been committing dishonesty offences since 2005 and had received the full range of sentences including imprisonment. The pre-sentence report referred to her criminally supported attitude and her drug use as being factors in the offending.

The dangerous driving arose from an incident while Clyde Road was busy with traffic and pedestrians on August 23. She was looking at her cellphone when she drove at speed along the cycleway to pass cars and smashed into a vehicle stopped at the Memorial Avenue traffic lights, nearly shunting it into an ambulance that was driving past with its lights and siren on.

“It was an appalling piece of driving. You put people seriously at risk,” said Judge MacAskill.

When police searched her home last year, they found the ammunition, two laptops that had been stolen in burglaries, and a pipe for smoking methamphetamine. McCausland explained that she was “a recovering addict”.

Judge MacAskill disqualified her from driving for a year, ordered reparation for the damage from the crash, and imposed a 25-month jail term.

He was explaining that the sentence was beyond the two-year range for home detention, and he would not have granted it anyway, when McCausland bolted from the courtroom.



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