Bury St Edmunds: Prisoner refuses to leave cell to be sentenced

A prisoner who was sprung from police custody by a former jail-mate avoided sentencing today after he refused to leave his cell.

Andrew Farndon, 27, had pleaded guilty to escaping from custody after fleeing from outside West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds in January last year.

His former cellmate Garry Cowan, 44, held a gun to a prison officer's head during the incident and threatened to shoot her if Farndon was not released.

The pair, who had shared a cell at Highpoint jail in Stradishall, Suffolk, had hatched a plot to free Farndon before Cowan was released two weeks earlier.

They were both later tracked down in Scotland and arrested.

Farndon, who was serving an indefinite jail term for smashing a motorist's head with a claw hammer and baseball bat, was due to be sentenced at the Old Bailey today.

However his barrister Stephen Shay told the court his client would not be attending the hearing as he had refused to leave his cell at Belmarsh prison.

``In no way is it because of any dissatisfaction with the court,'' Mr Shay said. ``He has an ongoing problem in Belmarsh with the prison conditions.''

Farndon, who has been diagnosed as having two severe personality disorders, had a number of complaints with the prison including the diet and exercise regime, his lawyer said.

High security Ashworth Hospital near Liverpool - where Moors Murderer Ian Brady is held - has indicated it is not prepared to accommodate him, Mr Shay added.

Judge Nicholas Hilliard QC, the Common Serjeant of London, said the case had run ``for a long time'' but he was prepared to adjourn sentencing ``once more'' in light of Farndon's psychiatric issues.

``I'd rather deal with the case when Mr Farndon is here,'' the judge said.

He apologised to prison officer Chris Matson, who was guarding Farndon when he was sprung from custody, after he travelled to the court to watch the sentencing from the public gallery.

While on the run, Farndon assaulted two police officers and tried to hijack two police cars.

He was arrested and in May this year jailed in Glasgow for six years.

The earliest he would have been able to apply for parole would have been May 2017, the Old Bailey heard.

Cowan and Farndon were convicted over the escape last December but their sentencing was delayed by a series of doctors' reports into Farndon's sanity.

Farndon has nine convictions for 18 offences including setting fire to his mother's home, burglary, assault and criminal damage.

He said his motivation for the jail break was to give his sick mother his kidney as she needs a transplant.

Cowan, who has committed almost 500 offences, was sentenced to 10 years last month for assisting an offender and possessing an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence.

Farndon is due to be sentenced at the Old Bailey on July 18.