Coronavirus fears halt Grafton court case
A SUSPECTED coronavirus infection has forced the adjournment of a case in Grafton Local Court.
South Grafton man Kevin Joseph Blanch, 50, was due to face the court yesterday to answer charges relating to breaches of bonds for 2018 convictions for affray and assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
But his solicitor, Greg Coombes, told the court his client was unwell when he met him outside the court.
"He told me he didn't want to give me some documents he had and I didn't want to take them from him," Mr Coombes said.
"I told him to go home and keep himself isolated."
Mr Coombes said he had not had a chance to discuss the charges, but he believed Mr Blanch had been charged with driving with a drug in his system, which resulted in the breach.
His revelation prompted Magistrate Kathy Crittenden to warn people in the court to leave if they felt unwell.
"People who are unwell should not come into the court or be in the vicinity of the court where people gather," Ms Crittenden said.
The court adjourned Mr Blanch's case until April 20.
Court staff have placed a notice next to the front door of the court warning people displaying symptoms of coronavirus or suspect they may have been in contact with infected people, to keep clear of the building and contact the courts on a phone number provided.
Outside the court, Mr Coombes said his client told him he believed he was infected with the COVID-19 virus.
"He didn't look well when I saw him, and he told me he had caught the coronavirus," Mr Coombes said.
"When I met him he was on the road away from everyone, and I didn't' want to get too close to him."
Mr Coombes said he had received emails from the Law Society and Legal Aid informing him of their guidelines for solicitors dealing with the pandemic.
"I've gone beyond what they've suggested," Mr Coombes said. "I've shut the door on my office and put up a notice telling people to only contact me over the phone."
Mr Coombes said he was taking his lead from friends in Italy, including Clarence Valley endurance cyclist Morgan Pilley, who said Australians should take note of the Italian experience
"He said if people wanted to know what it was going to be like in Australia in a couple of weeks, to look at what was happening in Italy now," he said.
"The numbers of cases started low, and every day more and more people came down with it."