Ward Calls For Jail Time For Public Health Order Breaches

23 Aug 2021

Member for Kiama Gareth Ward MP has called on the NSW Government to increase the penalties for persons who deliberately leave a place of isolation when they have tested positive to COVID-19.

Mr Ward will write to the NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard recommending a maximum one year in jail for this breach of the Public Health Orders. If the NSW Government does not agree with this proposal, Mr Ward left open introducing a Private Members Bill.

Mr Ward will also request the common law offence of ‘incitement’ be listed under COVID penalties on the NSW Health website[1]:

“A $5,000 fine just doesn’t cut it. A person who deliberately leaves a place of isolation when they have tested COVID-positive puts our community at risk. This is selfish, dangerous and unacceptable,” Mr Ward said.

“We are clearly going to have to live with this virus for a very long time and we need penalties that reflect the severity of those who recklessly put our community at risk.  

“A prison sentence reflects the seriousness of breaching an isolation direction. If you know you have COVID, it is totally unacceptable to put the rest of the community at risk by leaving isolation unless in the case of an emergency. 

“A fine simply doesn’t reflect the severity of leaving isolation and spreading this highly infectious virus.

Mr Ward said his proposal for a prison penalty would only apply to persons over 18. An exemption would exist for persons who are participants in the National Disability Insurance Scheme and fleeing family or domestic violence.

Whilst the NSW Health website lists penalties for breaches the Public Health Orders, Mr Ward said the Government needed to make clear that inciting people to breach the Public Health Orders could also constitute an offence.

“Those that incite or encourage people to breach the Public Health Orders also need to know that they can face possible penalties at law. Unlawful public gatherings from protests to parties risk the hard work of our public health officials and those that are doing the right thing; staying at home, getting tested and getting vaccinated.

“The offence of inciting a crime is still a common law offence however, it has also been legislated in the Crimes Prevention Act 1916 (NSW) and s11.4 of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth).

“Encouraging breaches are just as serious as those who breach them,” Mr Ward concluded.

“By strengthening penalties for reckless behaviour and making the law clear, we can better support our frontline police and send a strong message that poor behaviour will not be tolerated,” Mr Ward concluded.

[1] Legislation and penalties, NSW Health, last updated 20 August, 2021. View at: https://www.nsw.gov.au/covid-19/rules/legislation-and-penalties#:~:text=Breach%20of%20orders%20made%20under,each%20day%20the%20offence%20continues.