Although the COVID-19 pandemic is still very serious, the Government has begun to ease restrictions as the number of cases in the state decreases.
Public Health Orders (PHOs) remain in place, but from 15 May 2020 restrictions will be eased allowing up to five people to visit a household at any one time, and up to ten people to have an outdoor public gathering. There is no limit on the distance people can travel to visit another household, and there is no rule against staying overnight, but travelling for a holiday is still not allowed.
Cafes and restaurants will be allowed to seat up to ten people at a time, but are still required to have 4m2 between each person.
The number of people allowed at weddings, funerals and places of worship has also been increased.
Penalties still apply for breaching a PHO.
What are the penalties?
If a person is convicted by a Court for a breach of a PHO, the maximum penalty is a fine of $11,000.00 or six months in jail for a person, or $55,000.00 for a corporation.
For a continuing offence, further maximum penalties of $5,500.00 per day for a person or $27,500.00 for a corporation apply.
In addition, Police have the power to issue on-the-spot fines of $1,000.00 to a person and $5,000.00 for a corporation if it appears to Police that a PHO has been breached, and fines of $5,000.00 for coughing on or spitting at a public official.
Do I have to answer Police questions?
If Police have a suspicion that a person is breaching or has breached a PHO, they have the power to require the person to state their full name, residential address, and the name of the occupier of the premises they are in. It is an offence not to provide these details, with a maximum penalty of $5,500.00, or to provide false or misleading details, with a maximum penalty of $11,000.00.
A person is not required to provide any information to Police other than their name and address.
If a person does not provide those details, or Police reasonably suspect the person has provided false information, Police can arrest them to make inquiries to establish the person's identity.
Can Police arrest me?
Police can arrest a person if they reasonably suspect that person has committed an offence, or is committing an offence, including breaching a PHO. 'Reasonably suspect' is more than the 'suspicion' required for Police to ask for a person's identity details, and requires more than a possibility. Police can search a person who is under arrest if they reasonably suspect that it is prudent to do so.
What do I do next?
If you have been issued with a fine for breaching a PHO, you can elect to have the matter determined at Court. You will have the opportunity to plead ‘not guilty’ and fight the charge, or to plead ‘guilty’ and request that the Court consider an appropriate penalty.
If you are charged with an offence, you will have to go to Court.
If you have been issued a fine or charged with an offence, or you have any questions about your rights and responsibilities under the PHOs, get in touch with one of our experienced criminal law solicitors by phoning 02 4626 5077.
The contents of this publication are for reference purposes only. This publication does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Specific legal advice should always be sought separately before taking any action based on this publication.