A prisoner tricked police into releasing him from the Rotorua court cells by pretending to be someone else, a court has heard.

Justin Frederick Thompson, 28, pleaded guilty in the Rotorua District Court last week to escaping from custody and theft of another prisoner's belongings on July 15.

According to the police summary of facts, Thompson had been remanded in custody in the cells, along with numerous other prisoners.

While waiting, he spoke with a prisoner who had been granted bail and "familiarised himself" with that man's name and personal details.


When a constable opened the cell doors and called the other prisoner's name, Thompson stepped forward and said "Yep that's me".

He shook hands with a couple of cellmates as he left, then went to the bail counter where he provided the other prisoner's full name and date of birth.

He signed a property receipt and was given the man's bag containing $300 worth of personal items, before being released. He was free for 16 days before being caught.

Judge Jocelyn Munro declined a bail application by defence lawyer Peter Birks and remanded Thompson in custody for sentencing on October 22.

Senior Sergeant Bill Fisher told the Rotorua Daily Post new processes had been implemented as a result of Thompson's escape.

He said the arrest photo of each remand prisoner was now sent to the court cells along with their paperwork, so it could be checked before anyone was released.

Staff also now had smart devices where they could access a colour photo of each prisoner, he said.

Mr Fisher said incidents like this were "fairly rare" but had happened in other courts. However he was confident in the new procedure. "It shouldn't happen in the future."