THE details behind a riot which erupted at a Hunter jail during the COVID-19 lockdown in April last year began to emerge in Newcastle local court on Monday.
More than a dozen men involved in the riot on April 30, 2020, filed through court including one man described as the instigator and others heavily involved with damaging property amounting to a bill for $139,280.
The reasons for their involvement varied with some citing specific, personal frustrations and others who just got "caught up" with the disturbance and carried away.
A statement of agreed facts said a "disturbance' began in H block at the Shortland correctional centre at Cessnock, a two-storey building with four separate cell blocks, about 11.30am.
Inmates tried to stop correctional officers from entering the block, throwing objects such as crates and toilet paper at fixed security cameras, blocking doorways with fridges, and tying doors shut with sheets, as well as covering windows.
The inmates worked together, the statement said, to avoid being returned to their cells, damage property, and to prevent officers from seeing into H block to see what was coming next.
Other inmates put a hole through the gyprock ceiling to gain access to the roof, the court heard. In total about 17 men made it to the roof where they spent more than two and a half hours before being arrested.
At the time, Corrective Services NSW said prison officers had secured the inmates by 4pm, including those who had made their way to the roof of an internal building at midday.
Matt Unwin, solicitor for Ian Edwards, said his client felt a level of coersion and become involved in part due to peer pressure, and because he felt he may make himself vulnerable for not going with the group.
Another prisoner, Matthew Ian Duncan, told the court through his solicitor that he went through to the roof because tear gas had been used inside the building, but that he was not one of the ring leaders.
The court heard that John Cain Darcy played a significant role because he was armed, albeit with an "improvised weapon" being a broken broom stick, and actively encouraged others to become involved.
Todd Wayne Burns, a man who has spent most of his adult life in prison and who was first changed with an offence at the age of 12, was one of the main instigators, Magistrate Andrew Miller was told.
He was one of the first men to get up on the roof, wearing a face covering, and caused some damage there as well as verbally abusing correctional officers and actively encouraging others in the group.
Many of the matters will be sentenced together at Cessnock Local court on August 2, while others went to later dates in August and September for sentence.
The matter of Luca Alviggi, who was also among those who made it to the roof, has already been sentenced to 12 months in prison with a non-parole period of seven months for his involvement in the riot.