RCMP arrested a man who escaped from custody in Clarenville Tuesday. (.(Courtesy RCMP))

A man who made a brief escape from custody when he was being taken from the penitentiary in St. John's for a court appearance in Clarenville is now facing more criminal charges.

Christopher Sutton, 24, has been charged with escaping lawful custody, break and enter, theft, and possession of a prohibited weapon.

The final charge relates to a canister of pepper spray that Sutton is alleged to have taken from Her Majesty's Penitentiary guards who were accompanying him to Clarenville.

RCMP said Sutton was loose for about 20 minutes. RCMP and the guards had lost sight of Sutton, but a witness pointed to a trailer where Sutton was found hiding behind a couch. A man inside the trailer was apparently asleep during the incident.

The theft charges relate to both the pepper spray and a handcuff key.

In addition to the charges related to the escape, Sutton has been charged with mischief for allegedly destroying a mattress when he was subsequently brought to the lockup in Clarenville.

The Department of Justice is reviewing the escape, and an RCMP investigation continues.

Sutton, meanwhile, is due back in court on April 20 in Clarenville.

Series of breaches

The Newfoundland and Labrador criminal justice system has had to deal with a series of security breaches in recent years.

In February, convict Stanley Broomfield escaped from the RCMP lockup in Happy Valley-Goose Bay through an unlocked door. He was caught after he was spotted on a resident's property.

In late September, a man escaped from the holding area at provincial court in the Atlantic Place complex in downtown St. John's by crawling through an unsecured tile in the ceiling.

Earlier that month, two men described as violent criminals escaped from the West Coast Correctional Centre in Stephenville. Timothy Gunn and Terrance Payne broke off a sheet of plywood that was covering a shower room window, kicked out aging bars and then tunnelled under a wall. They were later recaptured.

In August 2010, Andrew Parsons managed to escape from a cell at the RCMP lockup in Marystown when an employee opened the door so a mattress could be put in.

Also in August 2010, Manuel John Clark was erroneously released from custody at provincial court in St. John's, even though he insisted to officials that he was not eligible for release. Paperwork was blamed for Clark's brief, inadvertent release.

In August 2009, Gregory Smith escaped from the courthouse in Wabush and, despite being confined to shackles, hijacked a car. He was caught after a high-speed chase with police.