THE DECISION to send a van 90 miles to spare a defendant a 60-yard walk has been branded “a total waste of money”, by the man at the centre of the saga.

Prison authorities sent a van from Southampton to take Oliver Thomas on the short trip from Banbury Police Station to the neighbouring magistrates’ court, after he was arrested for two alleged public order offences last week.

But speaking about the decision last night Mr Thomas, 27, said: “It was absolutely ridiculous.

“I was arrested on Friday night and held in a cell all weekend and told I’d be up in court first thing Monday.

“Then on the morning I was told there was a delay with the van so they couldn’t transport me to the court.”

Mr Thomas, of Middleton Road, Banbury, added: “The court is right next door to the police station. At first I wasn’t too bothered about waiting.

“But we were waiting for hours and then they told me the van was coming from Southampton.

“I thought they were joking to be honest.

“Surely they could have got a van closer but, even still, surely they could have just walked me there in handcuffs.”

The van was sent by GEOAmey, which is contracted by the Ministry of Justice to transport defendants between custody and courts.

Last night, the Ministry of Justice refused to comment on whether it would review its policy of not allowing defendants in custody to travel on foot to court.

GEOAmey had said it was a human rights issue and the need to send a vehicle from Southampton was due to a lack of availability from is Buckinghamshire vehicle base.

Mr Thomas said: “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work it out – order a van from Southampton, which is miles away, or take me across the road in less than a minute.

“It’s quite unbelievable. And these are the people in authority.

“It’s a total waste of taxpayers’ money.

But Mr Thomas added: “They didn’t say to me it would be against my human rights to walk me out front but even if they did, I wouldn’t have minded.

“I just wanted to get things moving.”

Ministry of Justice spokesman Tom Hodson said its policy to transport defendants by van was for “public protection”.

He added: “Contractors always plan journeys efficiently to make the best use of their resources.

“In this case the escort vehicle also made a number of other stops to prisons and courts.”