By ALEC SMART
Two off-duty NSW Police constables were fined for breaching Sydney’s strict coronavirus laws by attending a party in central Sydney on 4 April.
About 8.30pm on Saturday 4 April, a NSW Police patrol spotted a 27-year-old woman being assisted by a 31-year-old man, having recently left a party at an apartment nearby. The woman – a senior constable – was apparently so drunk she needed medical treatment and was taken to St Vincent’s Hospital in Darlinghurst, where she was held until 2.00 am.
Police visited the apartment and served fines on all five adults who attended the party, including another male senior police constable from Fairfield City command in Sydney’s west and two women.
They were fined $1,000 each for breaching the new Public Health (COVID-19 Restrictions on Gathering and Movement) Order 2020 social-distancing laws that were launched on 30 March, which forbid a person from leaving their home unless it is for ‘essential purposes’.
These rules, also known as ‘Lockdown Laws’, include travelling to work or education (school, university), purchasing food and necessary items, medical purposes or undertaking exercise [see complete list at end of article]. Social groups are limited to two persons and they must keep 1.5 metres apart.
The maximum penalty under the new order is $11,000 and six months in jail. The laws are projected to remain in place until June 30. NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said upon their implementation: “These laws aren’t forever; they’ll be turned off when we beat this… we’ll be happy in a few months’ time for de-escalation and you can quote me on that.”
Fines = PINs
Meanwhile, NSW Police are busy issuing loads of on-the-spot-fines – called PINs or Penalty Infringement Notices – for violations of the emergency Covid-19 laws. At least 18 were served across NSW between 4-5 April, the first weekend of its implementation, with a further 13 on the Monday.
In Sydney, these included:
A 37-year-old Newtown man who was spoken to on Fri 3 April for associating in public with four others was later issued a PIN for being out again without a reasonable excuse.
Two women aged 20 and 21 in a double-parked car in Bankstown were issued with PINs on 3 April for being unable to provide valid reasons for driving around.
Three men, one aged 36 and two 18-year-olds, were issued with PINs in Green Valley on 3 April for not obeying social distancing regulations and not providing legitimate reasons for being there. Two of the men had allegedly exited a stolen vehicle, which is also being investigated.
A 30-year-old man was issued with a PIN in Bankstown on 4 April for being unable to provide a valid reason for being out after he allegedly suddenly accelerated away from police in his car.
A 33-year-old woman in Toongabbie was issued a PIN on 4 April after she was found as a front-seat passenger in a food-delivery car claiming she was bored being at home.
A man was issued with a PIN at Sydney Opera House on 6 April after Sydney City Police claimed to have already warned him about being out without a reasonable excuse on 1 April.
Four men aged between 19 and 24 found drinking and having a barbeque at Lilli Pilli Baths were issued with PINs after they refused to depart.
NSW Police have also charged a number of people for Covid-19 related offences. In Sydney these included:
On 4 April, police were called to a Dee Why hotel where a 59-year-old man was charged with trespassing and breaching the Public Health Act after he was issued with two PINS on the Thursday and Friday for similar breaches.
On 6 April, lifeguards at Bondi Beach called police when a man ignored the signs warning the beach was closed. A 21-year-old was cautioned at the scene, but allegedly refused to follow move-on directions. He was then arrested, and allegedly coughed at the officer and claimed to have COVID-19. He later tested negative but was charged with a number of offences, including Failure to Comply and Intimidating a Police Officer in Execution of Duty.
List of Exemptions from Covid-19 lockdown laws
NSW Govt-approved list of 16 ‘Reasonable Excuses’ under the COVID-19 Restrictions on Gathering and Movement laws that exempt an individual from breaching Public Health Order 2020.
1 obtaining food or other goods or services for the personal needs of the household or other household purposes (including for pets) and for vulnerable persons
2 travelling for the purposes of work if the person cannot work from the person’s place of residence
3 travelling for the purposes of attending childcare (including picking up or dropping another person at childcare)
4 travelling for the purposes of facilitating attendance at a school or other educational institution if the person attending the school or institution cannot learn from the person’s place of residence
6 obtaining medical care or supplies or health supplies or fulfilling carer’s responsibilities
7 attending a wedding or a funeral (limits on numbers)
8 moving to a new place of residence (including a business moving to new premises) or between different places of residence of the person or inspecting a potential new place of residence
9 providing care or assistance (including personal care) to a vulnerable person or providing emergency assistance
10 donating blood
11 undertaking any legal obligations
12 accessing public services (whether provided by Government, a private provider or a non-Government organisation), including-
(a) social services, and
(b) employment services, and
(c) domestic violence services, and
(d) mental health services, and
(e) services provided to victims (including as victims of crime)
13 for children who do not live in the same household as their parents or siblings or one of their parents or siblings – continuing existing arrangements for access to, and contact between, parents and children or siblings
14 for a person who is a priest, minister of religion or member of a religious order – going to the person’s place of worship or providing pastoral care to another person
15 avoiding injury or illness or to escape a risk of harm
16 for emergencies or compassionate reasons
In a further clampdown on interstate movement, on 6 April authorities along the NSW and Queensland border replaced plastic water-filled barricades at Coolangatta with concrete ones to prevent people driving between the two states. The water-filled plastic barricades were installed on 3 April, but police found they were being drained, making them easier to shunt aside and drive through.
Queensland and NSW Police say the barricades will remain in place for as long as the health crisis continues. “If you don’t have a border pass, you will be refused entry at our border,” Queensland Chief Superintendent Mark Wheeler said when Queensland introduced border closures on 1 April.
Since then over 30,000 border checks have been undertaken with nearly 700 vehicles refused entry, including over 250 ordered into quarantine.
Police have also stopped over 2,200 people at domestic airports across Queensland, demanding 34 of them immediately return to their departure airport.