The CCTV footage shows a man dressed as a barrister walking along the corridors of Geelong Magistrates Court, which would not normally cause any concern. But the problem is, it is the middle of the night, and the man in robes is not a barrister.
It is a 33-year old Geelong man, Leigh Hansen, who has recently been sentenced 150 hours of community service for stealing barristers’ clothing, driving while disqualified and handling a stolen motorbike.
On the day in question, Mr Hansen had been at court as a witness. Feeling a little worn out, he found an interview room at around 4pm and settled down for a nap. He awoke about 5 hours later, by which time the court had closed for the day. Mr Hansen found himself locked in, and pretty bored.
He took a tour of the building, looking under paintings, turning off air-conditioning and water, and eventually discovering a cloakroom with barristers’ wigs and robes.
He then started to play dress up – donning a barristers’ outfit, then deciding it was the perfect disguise to exit undetected. He eventually found his way out of the building some hours later, carrying a barristers’ bag stuffed with extra garb, which he thought would give his mates a good laugh.
A police prosecutor identified Hansen from CCTV footage, and he was apprehended shortly thereafter.
In court, Mr Hansen’s criminal defence lawyer submitted that his client had accidentally overstayed his welcome:
“He was in a panic – he wakes up, it’s dark, he’s beside himself and he goes looking for a way out,” the lawyer said.
“It was not a very bright idea.”
Court security concerns
Hansen’s escapade raised concerns about court security, and all interview rooms are now to remain permanently locked in order to prevent any re-occurrence.
A month after his shenanigans, Mr Hansen was caught driving while disqualified, and his ultimate sentence took that offence into account.
While Hanson’s story is providing humorous fodder for newspapers, radio and social media feeds this week, stealing another person’s property is a crime known as ‘larceny’, and it attracts a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment in NSW.
So while dozing off at court may be understandable to those who’ve gone through the ordeal of being a witness, the Geelong man’s act of taking another’s property can constitute a criminal offence.