Man harboured escaped prisoner

A FATHER of four who avoided the legal system for 12 years after harbouring an escaped prisoner faced his past in Bundaberg Magistrates Court yesterday.

Steven Christopher Sindel, 30, of Elliott Heads, handed himself in to the Bundaberg Police Station on June 1 at 6.15pm after avoiding punishment for 12 years for crimes he committed when he was 18 years old.

The defendant pleaded guilty to harbouring an escaped prisoner, posessing dangerous drugs, posessing utensils, posessing a weapon without a license, posessing tainted property, breaching bail and contravening a community based order.

Police Prosecutor Senior Constable Fiona Ward told the court on January 26, 1999, police executed a search warrant at a North Rockhampton home where Sindel and three others lived.

They discovered the residents had been harbouring a prisoner who was serving three and a half years in a West Australian jail for armed robbery.

“He provided accommodation and food for the prisoner so he did not have to leave the house,” Snr Const Fiona Ward said.

Sindel admitted he had a conversation with the man who told him he had escaped from prison.

The prosecutor said while searching the house, police also found a BB Gun which the defendant claimed he found in a gutter.

Sindel was charged with posessing a weapon without a license and receiving tainted property, as the weapon had been stolen.

The court heard police also located a ceramic bowl filled with 18 grams of cannabis and three water pipes in the home.

The defendant stated while the cannabis did not belong to him, he had smoked it.

Following the charges being laid, Sindel fled the state, contravening a 12-month probation order and a 100-hour community service sentence.

Defence lawyer Thomas Bray told the court his client had come a long way since the offences in 1999.

“He came back to Queensland with a conscious decision to deal with these outstanding matters,” Mr Bray said.

“When he got back, he ensured his car was working so his family had transport, and then handed himself in.”

Mr Bray told the court the prisoner was the boyfriend of one of Sindel's housemate's sisters and he had shown up on their doorstep.

“My client had no money and no where else to go,” the defence said.

Magistrate Jennifer Batts said sentencing was difficult due to the time that had passed since the offences.

“Although a lot of time has passed, you were harbouring this man for approximately three days,” she said. “This person, who it seems has continuted to offend, is in jail and will be for some time to come.”

The magistrate ordered Sindel to serve 180 hours of community service.

She also fined him $420 and $300 for the breaches and ordered him to pay $289 restitution to the owners of the weapon.

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