A man with Covid-19 who kicked an officer in the face during a short-lived escape from an Auckland quarantine facility has received a prison term for that and a subsequent crime spree.
Lindsey Mark, 26, had been involuntarily staying at the Jet Park Hotel in Māngere in October 2021 - the third month of what was Auckland’s longest Covid-19 lockdown - when he fled the facility.
He was apprehended a short distance away from the facility and arrested about 30 minutes later. The arrest was announced that day by then-Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern during her daily Covid-19 press conference.
His harrowing upbringing was canvassed in a cultural report by sociologist Jarrod Gilbert, the facts of which were described as “some of the worst disadvantage I have read” by Judge Peter Winter at sentencing in the Auckland District Court on Thursday.
He was the son of a gang member father and raised in Papakura. Mark began stealing at age 5 to provide for himself and his family and started smoking cannabis around the same time. By the age of 12 he was using methamphetamine and he fathered a child not long after.
He endured abuse, entered the state care system and had spent every birthday since the age of 17 in custody, the court heard.
Judge Winter urged Mark to stop hurting others the way he had been hurt himself.
“I understand what you have been through but you have also caused pain and hurt to a lot of members of the community,” the Judge said.
Mark initially faced four charges related to the October 2021 incident: intentionally failing to comply with the Covid-19 Public Health Response Act by attempting to escape, assaulting an enforcement officer, intentionally damaging a police patrol car and assault in the commission of another crime - in this case, violating a Covid-19 order.
But those charges, some of which have since been dismissed, represent a small portion of the 25 offences Mark was alleged to have committed in 2021 and 2022.
They included burglary, driving offences, possession of methamphetamine and another accusation of causing intentional damage to a police vehicle.
Of the 25 alleged offences, eight were withdrawn after his guilty pleas to the remaining 17 charges.
The charge list begins with the escape from the quarantine facility, during which he kicked an officer in the face.
Over the following months he stole a number of cars and amassed charges for driving, injuring with intent to injure, burglary, escaping custody, using a vehicle as a weapon when he drove towards an officer trying to arrest him and damaging a police car.
He was supported by his family in court and presented a letter to the court expressing his remorse.
Mark was a patched gang member but had expressed a desire to leave that life behind and find gainful employment, perhaps on a road work team, an idea supported by Judge Winter.
“It’s a much better team than the one you were playing for before,” the judge said.
Judge Winter adopted a starting point of 45 months in prison, discounted by 25 per cent for his guilty plea and a further 20 per cent for matters raised in the cultural report.
The end sentence was a little over 24 months in prison. Because he has already spent 21 months behind bars awaiting the resolution of his case it is likely he will be released on time served.
“I wish you well with your release plan, let’s not see you in here,” The judge said.
Police said after the MIQ escape incident that Mark had been staying at the facility for three days when he tried to flee.
The case was far from the only outburst at the Jet Park hotel while it served as a quarantine facility. Days after Mark’s arrest, five rooms were allegedly trashed by people with gang connections.
Craig Kapitan is an Auckland-based journalist covering courts and justice. He joined the Herald in 2021 and has reported on courts since 2002 in three newsrooms in the US and New Zealand.
George Block is an Auckland-based reporter with a focus on police, the courts, prisons and defence. He joined the Herald in 2022 and has previously worked at Stuff in Auckland and the Otago Daily Times in Dunedin.