Customs Mistakenly Let One of The Unruly Tourists Escape NZ

James Anthony Nolan is facing charges of fraud, assault with a weapon and reckless driving, but has failed to appear in court.

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25 February 2019, 10:24pm

Illustration by Ben Thomson

Just when you thought you’d heard the last from the British tourists causing havoc across New Zealand, one goes and does a runner. Customs officials have admitted they accidentally let one of the British tourists wanted in relation to a roofing scam slip out of the country using someone else’s passport.

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James Nolan, image supplied.

James Anthony Nolan, 26, was arrested on Wednesday last week and is facing charges of fraud, assault with a weapon and reckless driving, but he has failed to appear in court over the past few weeks.

An investigation into Nolan’s whereabouts last week had Police believing he could have fled New Zealand. Now, a statement from Customs has confirmed that theory and revealed human error was to blame.

In the statement released on Sunday night, Customs assured New Zealanders there were robust systems in place to protect our borders, but confessed Nolan had managed to escape the country on false pretences.

"James Nolan deliberately circumvented border controls by using a valid passport that was not his own. He used an eGate, which uses biometric data to match and confirm the identity of a passenger. The eGate identified further checks were needed on the passport,” the statement read.

"The image was automatically sent to a Customs officer, who incorrectly identified Nolan as the passport owner. Unfortunately, that was a case of human error, which shouldn't have occurred."

Customs say they are taking the breach seriously and have launched a review into the processes that allowed the mistake.

In other news, Tommy Ward, 26, and William Donohue, 25, the other men involved in the roofing scam, appeared in Hutt Valley District Court on Wednesday last week. They were charged with using a false document as if it were genuine and accused of using a false Roofcare business card and forged invoice. They will be jointly charged with Nolan, but we are yet to find out when the escapee will appear in court.