A woman who scaled a 1.5m wall to escape a Covid-19 quarantine hotel may yet avoid conviction.
Suzanne Marie Derrett, 43, appeared in the Dunedin District Court yesterday after her case was transferred from Auckland.
She pleaded guilty to a charge of failing to comply with a Covid-19 order — a charge which carries a maximum penalty of six months' imprisonment — but police prosecutor Tim Hambleton said diversion may be considered since she had no previous convictions.
Diversion allows defendants to complete a range of tasks such as community work or counselling, which, if done successfully, results in the charge being withdrawn.
The matter was adjourned until Friday for that process to be undertaken.
Derrett arrived from Brisbane on June 27 and returned a negative Covid-19 test three days later.
On July 4 — a week before she was due to leave — she absconded from Auckland's Pullman Hotel before being found a couple of blocks away less than two hours later in Anzac Ave.
Court documents revealed Derrett entered an outdoor courtyard of the hotel, designated as a smoking area, fenced by a five-foot brick wall and surrounded by a hedge.
She spent 20 minutes in the area and "displayed signs of emotional distress", yelling and talking to herself.
The defendant went back inside the hotel but was back outside again nine minutes later.
Derrett shouted at staff through a window, then after a period of calm, leaped over the wall and ran off.
Counsel Sarah Saunderson-Warner said her client was suffering significant anxiety at the time of the crime, which put it at the "lower end of the scale".
She initially asked for Judge Jim Large to sentence the defendant yesterday until police raised the possibility of diversion.
The court previously heard Derrett finished her isolation period and been tested twice for Covid-19 with both tests returning negative results.
Every person who arrives in New Zealand must be isolated from other people for a minimum period of 14 days.
They must also test negative for Covid-19 before they can go into the community.
Head of managed isolation and quarantine Air Commodore Darryn Webb said earlier this month that more than 27,000 people had gone through managed isolation since March 26.
"We take any breach of the Covid-19 rules very seriously. Wilfully leaving our facilities will not be tolerated, and the appropriate action will be taken,'' he said.
''As we have said repeatedly – actions such as these are completely unacceptable. Returnees are given clear instructions and information about what their responsibilities are."