An Illawarra prisoner absconded from custody while working at Mount Keira Scout Camp last month after learning his partner had been admitted to hospital after a suicide attempt, a court has heard.
Sunjay Dayal, 35, was serving a 15-month prison sentence for abusing his partner Leanne Curtis and had only been at the minimum security facility in Unanderra for a few months when he walked away from the site before noon on July 17.
He took $640 he found inside a building belonging to the scout group and made his way to a nearby house, telling the homeowner his ute had broken down and that he needed to call a taxi.
A Wollongong Radio Cabs vehicle picked Dayal up and took him to Casula, in a ride costing about $200.
Police believe Dayal met Curtis, who lived nearby, and the pair fled up the coast. They were arrested two days later in Coffs Harbour.
Dayal pleaded guilty to charges of escape lawful custody and larceny.
In court on Tuesday, defence lawyer Ron Davis said Dayal had found out the morning of the escape that Curtis had been admitted to Liverpool Hospital after attempting self-harm.
"That played on his mind and thereafter he left the work site," Mr Davis said.
"He stole the funds to help get him there [to Liverpool]."
Mr Davis said Dayal, who had once enjoyed the relative freedom of a C-classification - the lowest classification inmates can have within the prison system - was now considered a high-risk inmate and subject to strict security and protocols. He is currently being housed at Lithgow Correctional Centre.
Magistrate Roger Clisdell sentenced Dayal to another 18 months behind bars on top of his current sentence, saying the Court of Criminal Appeal had made it clear that a family crisis was no excuse for an inmate escaping jail.
"It's highly important that matters of general deterrence take a principled and prominent position in a sentencing court's determination in these cases," he said.
Dayal, who had been due to be released on parole in January 2020, will now become eligible for parole in July 2021.
Meanwhile, Curtis, 39, has pleaded not guilty to harbouring an escaped inmate and will appear in court on August 27.
For help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or the Mental Health Line on 1800 011 511.