A 42-year-old West Australian man who breached COVID-19 quarantine protocols by going for a run in a public park has been fined $1,200 and will be released from custody today.
- Linnie Forrest, 42, arrived at Perth Airport on August 20 after spending six months in Queensland
- He drove 570km east to his home in Kalgoorlie-Boulder and was ordered to quarantine for 14 days
- On August 28 he was arrested by police who caught him jogging in a public park near his home
Lingiari Linnie Challa Forrest, better known as Linnie, flew back into Perth from Queensland last month and was ordered to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine period at his home in Kalgoorlie-Boulder.
Mr Forrest was initially issued a $1,000 infringement on August 22 after police caught him reversing from his driveway to go food shopping. Police were alerted because he did not have his headlights on.
He showed police he still had his suitcase in the boot and told the court “the engine was still hot” but he was still issued the infringement.
The Kalgoorlie Magistrate’s Court heard he had tested negative for coronavirus twice when he called police asking if he could go for a run and was told he would be arrested if he was caught.
He went anyway and was spotted by an off-duty police officer at Karlkurla Bushland Park, a popular local running track, and arrested on August 28.
Guilty plea to COVID-19 breach
Today Mr Forrest pleaded guilty to failing to comply with a direction under the State’s Emergency Management Act.
The court heard he had spent the past 14 days in custody and was initially in lockdown for 23 hours a day due to quarantine restrictions.
Mr Forrest’s lawyer, Leneva Polmear from the Aboriginal Legal Service of WA, said he went running to deal with mental health issues.
“He’s very physical — he runs and does boxing to relieve stress,” she said.
‘Feeling stir crazy’ no excuse
Speaking via video-link from Eastern Goldfields Regional Prison, Mr Forrest said he returned to Kalgoorlie-Boulder to pack up his house and move to Townsville to be near his teenage daughter.
He said he needed to get outside and exercise for his own mental wellbeing.
“It’s my medicine,” he said.
Magistrate Brie Ayling said she understood Mr Forrest was “feeling stir crazy” but it was no excuse.
The maximum penalty for failing to comply with the Emergency Management Act is 12 months’ imprisonment and a $50,000 fine.
WA Police would not provide statistics on how many people had been charged with or convicted of quarantine breaches this year, but there had been several high-profile cases.
Last month, a 53-year-old man sparked a COVID-19 scare at a Perth pub and a 29-year-old woman who breached quarantine rules three times was handed an eight-month suspended sentence.