A luxury art and jewellery consultant was fined $2500 after she said she was unaware of travel restrictions when she flew from a COVID-19 hotspot in Sydney to Canberra.
On Tuesday (7 September), the ACT Magistrates Court heard 24-year-old Isabella Sophie Hughes took a flight from Sydney to Canberra on 9 July 2021.
After arriving, she was confronted by police but told them she had not come from a virus hotspot.
However, police checks found she had come from a hotspot and didn’t have an exemption to travel to the Territory.
Police ordered her to stay at an airport hotel and not leave until the next day to catch the earliest flight back to Sydney.
Magistrate Glenn Theakston said the seriousness of the situation would have been clear to Hughes at that point, but she still left the hotel and travelled into Canberra later that night.
Just after midnight on 10 July, at about 12:05 am, police found her in the city in an Uber with two other passengers and the driver and arrested her.
Hughes, who said she worked as a luxury consultant selling art and jewellery before losing her job due to the coronavirus outbreak in Sydney, appeared in the courtroom by phone and said she was “very, very sorry” and “very embarrassed” for her actions.
“I just wasn’t thinking at the time,” she said.
“I hope that in the future I can make better decisions.
“It’s been a big lesson for me.”
She said a friend in Canberra had called her expressing suicidal thoughts so she fell into a “state of panic” and had to get to her.
Hughes said the lockdown rules had just been implemented so she didn’t understand what was going on, but as soon as she got to Canberra she realised she had made the wrong decision.
But Magistrate Theakston said he did not accept her claim that she wasn’t aware of the rules she had to follow.
He said governments expected people to “think beyond themselves” during the pandemic.
He added she could have called the police and asked them to do a welfare check on her friend.
Hughes, who is originally from Western Australia but now lives in Queensland, pleaded guilty to failing to comply with a direction under the Public Health Act without a reasonable excuse. She faced a maximum fine of $8000.
Magistrate Theakston convicted and fined her $2500.