LegalMay 06, 2020

COVID-19: Prisoner seeks order for early release due to infection risk

Mark Rowson is currently in Port Phillip Prison at Truganina serving a five-year sentence for fraud offences. He is eligible for parole in March 2022.

Mr Rowson commenced interlocutory proceedings in the Supreme Court of Victoria against Corrections Victoria and the State of Victoria, seeking an order releasing him from prison because of his health risks, including the risk that he will die, if he is infected with the COVID-19 virus. Mr Rowson argued that there were a number of breaches of hygiene occurring in his prison unit and that the prison authorities have breached their duty to take reasonable care for his health.

His Honour Ginnane J noted that the Court has jurisdiction, when cases are brought before it arising in connection with the risks posed by the COVID-19 virus, to consider whether specific orders are necessary to protect the health of particular individuals, including prisoners. [9]

Ginnane J found that the discretionary considerations, which are the balance of convenience considerations, did not favour Mr Rowson’s release from prison. But the risk to Mr Rowson and other prisoners remained. His Honour ordered that the defendants arrange for the undertaking of an independent risk assessment of the risk to prisoners and employees who work in the prison. The assessment should include the screening of staff and visitors when they enter the prison and that any recommendations in the assessment should be implemented. [13]

Rowson v Department of Justice and Community Safety & Ors [2020] VSC 236.

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