Kingaroy man’s huge fine for lying about COVID hotspot visit
A KINGAROY man who travelled from a Victorian COVID hotspot into Queensland, providing false information on his border declaration form has been fined thousands of dollars.
John William Fredric Whyatt pleaded guilty to one count of failing to comply with COVID-19 public health direction and one count of fraud, dishonestly gaining benefit or advantage at Kingaroy Magistrates Court on October 12.
On July 10, 2020 the 38-year-old supplied false information on a border pass when crossing the New South Wales and Queensland border in Goondiwindi.
On July 11, 2020 he dishonestly gained benefit by avoiding the mandatory 14-day quarantine after returning from a COVID-19 hotspot.
The court heard Whyatt was working driving a truck through South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria before obtaining a border pass and travelling into Queensland.
On July 11, he drove from a Victorian depot in Leitchville, travelling across the Victoria and New South Wales border before making his way to Goondiwindi where he crossed into Queensland.
Police prosecutor Senior Sergeant Pepe Gangemi told the court the defendant would not have been allowed into Queensland if he had provided the correct information on his border declaration form.
"If he had provided the correct information he would have been denied entry as he had been in a hot spot,"
"As a result of providing false information he was allowed to enter Queensland without doing the mandatory 14 days in quarantine, gaining the benefit of avoiding paying $2800.
"In times of a pandemic there is a need for very specific general deterrence and personal deterrence for people who wish to provide false information and while nothing may have flowed from this entry that is not the idea behind the safety measures put in place."
Whyatt was represented by Mark Werner from J.A. Carroll Solicitors who said the defendant was unaware he was ever in a hotspot.
"He was asked in the online questionnaire if he had been to a hotspot, he didn't know where he had been was a hotspot, so he selected no," Mr Werner said.
"He had been driving alone in the country, he doesn't have COVID and he was a minimal risk.
"At the time of this he had quit his job and had to return to Queensland unemployed and therefore didn't have much money in the bank."
Magistrate Andrew Sinclair asked Mr Werner how many people have died from the disease in Victoria before saying over 700.
"Do you think all of those people who were responsible for infecting others knew or believed they were infected," Magistrate Sinclair said.
"That is the horrible thing about this disease, sometimes you simply don't know you are transmitting it."
Mr Werner said while he did appreciate the seriousness of the offences, the defendant wasn't ill and no one contracted the disease because of him and it was just a failure of obligation.
Magistrate Sinclair suggested a combination of fines and community service to cover the ticketable amount of $4003 and the saving of $2800.
"What you did in this case was you took the limited amount of information you had in that you felt fine and put everyone else in Queensland at risk," he said.
"One person can spread this disease into an area and onward to those people who care for others in nursing homes and from there we know there are fatal consequences.
"If your conduct puts others at risk and even if there were no consequences, it's very serious and other people need to be deterred from taking the same risk gambling with everyone's lives like you took.
"You pleaded guilty promptly, were cooperative with police and have a lack of history, which I take into account."
In relation to count one Whyatt was convicted and fined $4003 and in relation to count two he was convicted and fined the amount of $2800 in community benefit.
Convictions were recorded on both charges and the fines were referred to SPER.