Palgrave secure unit case adjourned

A care assistant at a secure unit in north Suffolk was having a relationship with a mentally-ill prisoner she helped escape, a court has heard.

Rebecca Martin, 22, was waiting in her car in the car park of St John's House in Palgrave in the early hours of the morning when Luke Sparks overpowered a member of staff and used a fire extinguisher to smash his way out of the building, Ipswich Crown Court was told.

Martin and 21-year-old Sparks had then driven to the Bristol area where they were arrested two days later.

Rex Bryan, prosecuting, said Sparks was placed at St John's House, which is a medium secure mental hospital used for the assessment and treatment of prisoners who have been placed under hospital orders, in December 2009 after he admitted robbing and repeatedly stabbing a taxi driver.

Martin was working at the unit as a care assistant and had been fully trained in the procedures and requirements of the hospital, said Mr Bryan.

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He said the apparent trigger for the break out by Sparks was a decision by a tribunal a few days earlier not to recommend his release and the fact he was was in a relationship with Martin.

Mr Bryan said Martin would have known it was 'entirely inappropriate' for her to have a relationship with Sparks and she would also have known he was not allowed to have a mobile phone which they used to communicate with each other.

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On the night of the escape Sparks went to an office and demanded keys from a member of staff. The man was punched and suffered burn injuries to his arms and back after a fire extinguisher was sprayed on him. He handed over the keys to an observation room as a result of the threats and force used on him, said Mr Bryan

Sparks escaped after smashing windows with the fire extinguisher to get to the car park where Martin was waiting in her car.

Martin, of Greys Manor, Banham, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to assisting Sparks to escape.

Sparks, of Weston-super-Mare, admitted escaping from lawful custody and sentence on him and Martin was adjourned until yesterday for reports to be prepared on them. At the earlier hearing Martin was warned she was facing a prison sentence.

Yesterday's hearing was further adjourned until the week commencing March 19 to await the outcome of a hearing which will decide if Sparks's current hospital order will be discharged.

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