A Sydney man who escaped from a NSW prison 29 years ago using a hacksaw and bolt cutters has been jailed for another two months.
Darko Desic, 64, was homeless in September when he walked into Dee Why police station and confessed to breaking out of a Grafton jail on the state’s north coast on the night in 1992.
He pleaded guilty to escaping from lawful custody and was returned to prison, where he is serving the rest of his original jail term on a drugs charge.
Clemency to serve this by way of a community order instead had been sought from the attorney-general and governor-general, defence lawyer Paul McGirr said.
Desic had served 19 months of a 33-month minimum term until his escape. If clemency is unsuccessful, he will remain behind bars until at least December 2022.
In the Central Local Court on Thursday, magistrate Jennifer Atkinson acknowledged Desic had lived a tough life but said there was no alternative to full-time custody.
“He chose to take tools and break out of the custodial centre,” she said.
“I accept he had real fears what might happen to him.”
The court was told Desic fled prison to avoid being sent back to the former country of Yugoslavia, where he had been due to serve on the frontline of war.
Outside court, Mr McGirr said there remained the issue of Border Force attempting to deport Desic at the end of his sentence.
“Bearing in mind, he doesn’t have the same country left to go back to being Yugoslavia,” he said.
“Hopefully someone with a bit of common sense looks at that and says I just think this letter might have been generated automatically.”
To escape prison, Desic used a hacksaw blade to cut through jail bars before gaining access to an external shed where he found bolt cutters he used on the boundary fence, the court was told.
He then remained “at large” in Sydney’s northern beaches for nearly three decades where he could not visit an RSL, nor obtain a Medicare card, and had removed his own teeth.
But Desic committed no other crimes and had essentially served another sentence outside with the guilt hanging over his head, Mr McGirr said.
“Not knowing when someone will knock on the door … someone coming across the sand dunes to arrest him,” he said.
One of the difficulties posed for the magistrate was a difference in sentencing principles.
“You can’t sentence him to 100 days’ hard labour, which might have been available back then,” he said.
Desic’s coastal community had grown to “love and respect” him so much that a crowdfunding campaign had raised $30,000 in support of his legal bills and housing needs, Mr McGirr said.
Prosecutor Scott Williams said the case evoked a “romantic idea” of escape from custody and asked for a full-time custodial sentence.
This was necessary to ensure other inmates contemplating breaking out knew they would be punished “no matter how long after escape when captured”, he said.
Under laws from 1992 when he escaped, Desic had faced a maximum term of 10 years in prison for the offence.