By JACOB POK
A JUDGE yesterday told police they were free to go after notorious prison escapee William Kapris and 11 others, although he declined their application for warrants for their arrest.
Because some of the 12 who escaped were remandees, police were seeking bench warrants, in case of legal issues later, to seek out and capture the 11 who are still at large. One of the escapees, Oliver Ben Gabi, has been recaptured and is back behind bars.
State lawyers yesterday appeared before Justice Ere Kariko to seek the warrants.
The lawyers submitted that 11 fugitives, regarded as “dangerous”, had illegally escaped from lawful custody and were still at large, therefore the State was seeking the court’s power to grant bench warrants of arrest to recapture them.
But Justice Kariko said that no proper materials had been presented before the court which he could rely on to make a ruling.
“I won’t rely on oral submissions from the bar table or newspaper reports saying these people are criminals, unless proper files of the prisoners and their charges are presented before me,” Justice Kariko said.
He told the lawyers that it was not the court’s duty to look for the files and records of the escapees as these should be with the police.
He refused to entertain the application, but told police that they had the authority under section 139 of the Constitution to arrest the escapees without a formal bench warrant from the court.
This legal twist comes 16 days after the 12 prisoners were sprung from the Maximum Security Unit of the Bomana prison outside Port Moresby on Jan 12.
Three warders have been arrested and charged in connection with the escape. One civilian, believed to be the driver of the getaway vehicle, was also charged. They are behind bars, awaiting their court appearance.
The identity of a woman who posed as a lawyer to aid their escape has puzzled police.
Meanwhile, police in West Sepik province believe some of the escapees are planning a bank robbery in Aitape.
Sandaun provincial police commander Chief Insp Sakawar Kasieng said police had received intelligence reports of the planned heist and “we will beef up police manpower in Aitape on Sunday”.
Chief Insp Kasieng appealed to Vanimo and Aitape residents to remain alert and help police by reporting any sighting of suspicious people.
“We believe they (the fugitives) are already in Vanimo. The robbery is to be executed by those who escaped from Bomana prison,” he added.
He said Vanimo residents should maintain alertness and report the sighting of “strangers” to help the police nab the fugitives.
Chief Insp Kasieng also expressed confidence in the leadership of Aitape’s new police station commander, Insp Michael Tilai.
He said the station had been without a commander for the last six years and thanked the commissioner for the officer who relinquished his position of Bulolo Mobile Squad commander to take up the challenge.
Chief Insp Kasieng said Insp Tilai would ensure that police manpower was strategically deployed for crime prevention in Aitape and Vanimo.