Prison smoking ban sparked riot in Gatton jail

THE decision to ban smoking in Queensland prisons was the spark which ignited a riot within the walls of a Gatton correctional facility.

The riot took place at the Southern Queensland Correctional Centre on May 5, last year - the day the policy was introduced - and saw inmates run rampant in the exercise yard and damage the officer's station.

At Ipswich District Court yesterday, four of the prisoners faced charges in relation to the riot, with seven more scheduled for sentencing today.

The men who appeared in the dock yesterday included Robert William Batchelor, Michael John Jackson, Francisco Sabatino and Matthew Francis Gill.

Crown prosecutor Dzenita Balic said the men had been serving various sentences and that each of them contributed to the riot incident in different ways.

Jackson, sat on top of a basketball hoop in the exercise yard and threw a piece of glass into the officer's station.

The 30-year-old also used a broom handle to smash at least four windows and shouted abuse at prison staff.

Sabatino, 44, used a skipping rope to help another prisoner tie a barbeque to the door of the exercise yard and threw mop buckets and cups.

Batchelor held a broomstick handle as a weapon and placed clothing over the bars outside the exercise yard to block outside view.

The 27-year-old also swung a prison telephone at the glass of the officer's station.

During the offending, all three men wrapped their faces in material in an apparent attempt to conceal their identity.

As a consequence, the trio pleaded guilty to taking part in a riot and during the incident damaged or attempted to damage property.

Gill had a less serious role in the riot and simply didn't return to his cell when he was ordered to do so.

The 32-year-old pleaded guilty to an unlawful assembly charge.

Judge Sarah Bradley said the riot had been a "shocking and serious" breach of discipline.

"Whenever an incident like this takes place, there is a very real danger that someone may get injured," she said.

"In this case a significant amount of damage to the tune of $7000 was caused - that is public property and public money."

Batchelor, who had been serving a 13-year sentence for attempted murder had his sentence extended by a year and his parole eligibility date pushed back by four months to January 8, 2019.

Judge Bradley noted Jackson had an "extensive" criminal history and that he had spent 22 days in pre-sentence custody. She sentenced him to 18 months in jail, with a parole release date of November 20.

Sabatino had served 63 days in pre-sentence custody and was sentenced to 14 months in jail, with a parole release date on August 27.

Judge Bradley noted that Gill had committed other offences since the riot incident and sentenced him to six months in prison with a parole release date of September 4.


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