A Whangārei painter has been sentenced to six weeks in jail for entering a quarantine facility and hugging a friend who was in isolation after returning from abroad.
Jesse Courtney Welsh, 33, of Morningside, appeared for sentencing in the Whangārei District Court yesterday after earlier pleading guilty to charges of being unlawfully in an enclosed yard and of failing to comply with a Covid-19 order.
However, police last week withdrew the charge of failing to comply with a Covid-19 order as it was wrongly laid. He was also facing charges of careless driving and failing to stop.
At sentencing, Judge Keith de Ridder said the fact Welsh chose to meet a friend who returned from Australia where the coronavirus risk was higher increased his culpability.
He said Welsh was out celebrating with friends in Auckland when he became aware of a
friend who had returned from across the ditch on July 29 and was in isolation at the Crowne Plaza hotel.
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To make matters worse, the judge said Welsh briefly embraced his friend which was a serious breach of isolation rules.
"This was not an example of people under severe stress because of a family death or some other reason. You knew full well about the quarantine rules and was not just content with talking to him, but hugged him as well."
Welsh's lawyer John Day said his client accepted full responsibility for his actions which could not be tolerated.
"His own words to me were 'it was a real dumb thing to do'. Public health rightly has to be at the fore here."
Welsh is in isolation and his three Covid tests all came back negative.
He refused to engage with police when he was seen talking to his friend at Crowne Plaza and got into his vehicle and drove off. He was arrested the next day in Whangārei.
On the charge of failing to stop, he was sentenced to a concurrent term of six weeks while he was convicted and discharged on the careless driving charge.