A PRISON van drove 96 miles to take a suspect 50 YARDS because making him walk would have "infringed his human rights".
The vehicle made a 2½-hour trip across THREE counties from Southampton to Banbury, Oxfordshire, to carry Oliver Thomas from the police station to the magistrates court next door.
The journey would have taken only 30 seconds on foot.
Stunned Judge Tom Corrie was told that making the 27-year-old walk in handcuffs between the buildings in public would have subjected him to indignity and "infringed his human rights".
The judge, sitting at Oxford Crown Court, said: "I'm not quite sure why he couldn't be walked along the street. I wonder how much public money has been wasted?"
The bizarre incident was also slammed by anti-waste campaigners and even by Thomas HIMSELF, who spent frustrated hours waiting in the police station for the van to arrive.
He said: "I would have been quite happy to walk — I couldn't care less about human rights. It's quite unbelievable really."
The episode — reported to have cost £1,000 in wages and vehicle upkeep — emerged when Thomas failed to appear at the Crown Court on an attempted robbery charge and Judge Corrie asked where he was.
It was explained he had been arrested on minor allegations of public order offences and held at the nick in Banbury, 18 miles away.
He was due to face magistrates in Banbury at the same time as he was due before the judge in Oxford.
Defence barrister Claire Fraser told Judge Corrie she had been informed that prisoner escort service GEOAmey, which is being paid £90million a year to take defendants between custody and courts, had sent a van for him from Southampton.
Judge Corrie said there should have been "no difficulty at all" in local police taking the defendant to the court.
Referring to GEOAmey, which only took over the Ministry of Justice contract in August, the judge said "time would tell" if it would prove more efficient than predecessors.
GEOAmey's John Bates said police would not expect staff to make prisoners walk in cuffs, saying it "strays into the area of human rights."
He said Banbury was covered by the firm's Buckinghamshire base but no vans were available at short notice so one was sent from Hampshire "as a contingency measure". A one-way taxi fare would have been £276.
Thomas, who WALKED home after being bailed by the magistrates, added: "Nobody told me walking would infringe my human rights. It's a total waste of taxpayers' money."
Robert Oxley, of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "It is an appalling waste of money. There must have been a more cost-effective solution." Source